Learning and living Nonviolent Communication
by Luiza Ștefan (member of the Asociația pentru Comunicare Nonviolentă din România)
International Intensive Trainings in Nonviolent Communication are organized in different countries every year by the Center for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC) founded by Marshall Rosenberg. He wanted to create this occasion for people to live together, for several days, his vision of nonviolence. These trainings (shortly named IIT) are described on the website of the Center as follows:
`An International Intensive Training, or IIT, is a special kind of 'immersive experience' developed by Marshall Rosenberg, uniquely offered through the Center for Nonviolent Communication as part of his legacy. It is a 9-day, residential workshop in Nonviolent Communication, typically including 40 to 70 participants with 3 to 5 CNVC Certified Trainers.
The IITs are organized in collaboration with a local organizer/host group or individual who organizes the residential venue and meals for the period. The costs vary with each IIT, as they each depend on the costs of available appropriate venues in the location of the event. IITs have been held all over the world; Sri Lanka, Canada, Sweden, France, Switzerland, Colombia, Brazil, the United States of America, Hungary, and Argentina, are only some of the countries that have hosted IITs.
The participants and trainers live, eat, play, and learn together in community during the training, providing real-life opportunities to live Nonviolent Communication over an extended period of time. Participants develop Nonviolent Communication skills and consciousness with the guidance and support of the Certified Trainer team.` (www.cnvc.org)
The IIT in the UK in December 2018 was my first experience with this “immersion-style” learning and it was part of the Erasmus+ project developed by Romanian Association for Nonviolent Communication. It took place at Woodbrooke, in Birmingham, Great Britain. It was a very rich experience in which I was joined by my Romanian Team of 8 colleagues and by other 83 people from 22 countries.
In the practice of NVC, we talk about personal experiences in terms of observations, feelings and needs. Sometimes, especially when we want to have a clearer and more complete processing of the experiences, we take time to talk about them in two parts: `celebration` and `mourning`. This means that we are interested to see how we feel and what needs were met by those experiences – this is the `celebration` part. When we speak about the unmet needs and what we regret – this is the `mourning` part. Seeing both sides of the coin is very helpful to understand that almost everything in our life contains light and shadows, gains and losses. Practicing NVC is a way to develop more awareness about self and others, more flexibility in accepting different sides of self and others, more creativity in searching for strategies when needs remain unmet. Awareness, flexibility, creativity help to reduce the inner violence brought by `HAVE-TOs,` which are really expectations we have of ourselves or of others or about situations.
I want to present my experience in UK 2018 IIT in this manner, writing from this dual perspective:
Celebration: For me, as for many others Romanian colleagues, it was the first time when we attended such a big, long, intensive and international training. I felt a lot of curiosity regarding the topics, the personal style of the 5 trainers, the unfolding processes in ourselves, the group dynamic, the free time and the time together, the physical and the emotional space, the habits and the traditions of such an event. I was open; ready to see, to listen, to attend, even if I was less ready to talk in the big group, but I could feel more ease to talk within small groups. My needs for learning and for discovering were totally met. I liked that we could choose how much we wanted to exit from the comfort zone, to try the learning zone or to avoid the panic zone – this satisfied my need for choice and for safety.
The variety of the workshops is something that I want to also celebrate. Every day of the training was dedicated to one of these topics: self-connection, empathy, honest self-expression, healing and reconciliation, gratitude, mediation and conflict resolution, social change and sharing NVC. And on every topic, the trainers offered different perspectives and themes. So, the learning was really deepened. And it was also experiential learning, by practicing in pairs or in small groups. The demos of the trainers with volunteers helped a lot to observe the trainers’ skills and to be inspired by the openness of the volunteers. The needs for knowledge and for my personal development as a trainer were really met by the variety, the diversity and the depth of the workshops. Also, by the variety of personal styles of the trainers, their profound understanding of NVC, their capacity to convey important messages as well as subtle distinctions on different topics.
The organization of the IIT offered me another reason to celebrate: I was impressed by the kindness and the readiness to support of the organizers, the English-Austrian family/team and also the people from the Quaker Centre in Woodbrooke. Also, I really appreciated how smooth the family team integrated their small children in the big group meetings – this was a BIG lesson about how we, as adults, can respect children and their needs.
Another aspect that was wonderful for me regards a more personal resonance: the fact I was part of the Romanian team. Being together all 9 people brought us closer and I could feel how it is to belong, to have friends, to have common goals, to complete each other with different perspectives, to support each other, even when it is difficult to ask for support. For me, this was a very rich human experience and even now when I am writing about it, guided by my memories, I feel warm and smiling and grateful to them!
Mourning: Like many other participants, especially the ones for the first time in an IIT, I experienced the frustration of having to choose from four different workshops only one workshop at a time. This happened every day in each of the two sessions proposed. So, twice a day I had to deliberate with myself and to feel sorry not attending the other workshops. The organizers and elder fellows said this is the MMS syndrome = I MIGHT MISS SOMETHING and tried to explain that every choice we do is not at random, but could have a meaning for us.
Another difficult aspect: the intensity of the program brought tiredness and I did not have enough time to rest, to integrate, to enjoy walking in the garden or to visit surroundings. Yes, an IIT is really an intense time for taking in a lot of information, intellectual and also at the emotional and social level, there was a lot of stimulation and not enough time to process all as I would have liked.
I wrote about the two sides of the coin and I can see that being in a Romanian team and having there the emotional comfort – which is the pleasant point - prevented me, in a way, to search to connect more with other participants. This is a small regret I have.
An IIT is a very concentrated lesson to be learned and to be passed on. In UK I discovered again how values can shape the existence of people that bring their personal contribution to sustain life. I learned from trainers’ examples and work and from other participants about some important things for me:
courage and passion to bring peace through mediation in Ukraine war,
trust and resilience when tragic events happen at personal or social level, as in USA or Brazil
vulnerability and strength everywhere
day-to-day self-care and empathy
care and respect for people, no matter the age, for nature and for our planet.
Maybe there are other important messages or lessons that remain quiet in my mind and soul, as the seeds in the soil, until the time for showing themselves will come. In the info and guidance booklet about the IIT which I received from the organizers I read these words and they fit as a conclusion: `May it be so that our time together continues the vision of nonviolence that you imagined, and may those who attend continue to sow and grow those seeds`.