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Dry chicken incident

relationships camp NVC Communication blaming

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17 replies to this topic

#1
Marc Moini

Marc Moini
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Today I remembered an incident from when I was 16 and in sailing camp on the river Thames for a month. Maybe 30 of the other children/young adults had already left and only 5 of us remained the last week. The counselor, Philip, was around 25 as far as I could tell, and I liked him, we got along fine. His girlfriend was visiting and she had prepared dinner for all 7 in the house. As we were eating Philip asked what we thought of the chicken, and I was feeling safe there, I wasn't on guard and watching myself like usual, so I didn't think and simply replied "A bit dry".

 
At that he got really mad at me, saying how I was ungrateful and insensitive, that (I don't recall her name) had taken trouble to prepare dinner for us and all I could do was complain. I was taken aback, quite ashamed of myself for being so self-absorbed. After that I was tense the last few days and I didn't have much fun.
 
If I had known how to talk to myself and others without always shaming or blaming, which would have allowed me to be more connected to myself, and in turn more connected to others (in other words if I had learned how to communicate more effectively*), I might have recognized that Philip's question wasn't about the food, that maybe he was a bit uncomfortable because his girlfriend was new in the group and what he really wanted was for everyone to feel at ease, and he was trying to get a conversation going. Instead of taking his question litterally I might have replied "I rather like it**, and I appreciate that (Cynthia?) prepared it for us. Are you a bit concerned perhaps that everybody's silent, and you would like us all to feel at ease and talk and have a good time together?". I believe this would have made for a much more pleasant dinner for all of us, and a more enjoyable last few days of camp after that.
 
Of course if Philip had learned to express himself more authentically and to take more responsibility for his interpretations, that could have worked too, to make our time together more enjoyable for all.
 
 
*especially NonViolent Communication, which is where I'm learning about observation vs interpretation/evaluation, and what each person is feeling, and what's important to each person right now, etc.
 
**which was true: the slight dryness was the only problem I could find with it and it was minor for me, I liked everything else, maybe I was just trying to be helpful by giving feedback since that's how I had understood the question to be about.

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#2
wdiaz03

wdiaz03

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... replied "I rather like it**, and I appreciate that (Cynthia?) prepared it for us. Are you a bit concerned perhaps that everybody's silent, and you would like us all to feel at ease and talk and have a good time together?"....

 

Philip might have replied

"Well Thank you Marc, A simple good thanks would have been fine"  :)

 

A rather awkward response from 16 year old. how about

"Not Bad, Thank you Cynthia"

 

The rest it seems you are assuming what he meant by the question. Just like initially you though he wanted cooking tips from 16 year olds, now you assume he was breaking the ice?

 

If you felt like he was trying to break the ice, then why not bring up a topic? "So Cynthia, how are you liking it so far?" etc.

 

My 2 cents.

 

I like what Stef says "The truth is not a sword to be drawn at all times" or something like that.


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"So I say, “Live and let live.” That’s my motto. “Live and let live.” Anyone who can’t go along with that, take him outside and shoot the motherfucker. It’s a simple philosophy, but it’s always worked in our family." - George Carlin


#3
Kaki

Kaki

  • 24 posts

Marc, I have been following your threads for quite a while now and was wondering if you'd mind responding to some thoughts of mine.

I don't want to hijack your thread, so I hope this is ok for you.

 

In the last year or so I started observing my emotional reactions to things I am reading. I am particularly interested if the text I am reading makes me feel very anxious, frustrated or angry. It helps me to wonder why these feelings arise and where I have experienced them earlier in my life in a similar context.

 

The typical NVC responses, like the one you are giving as an example (see below) made me until now extremely angry. (Which is very interesting to me.)

 

 

"I rather like it**, and I appreciate that (Cynthia?) prepared it for us. Are you a bit concerned perhaps that everybody's silent, and you would like us all to feel at ease and talk and have a good time together?"

 

 

I do not believe that I am the only person experiencing frustration, even anger when it comes to robotic NVC replies, so I can imagine my following thoughts could be interesting to you as well.

 

I grew up, like so many others, with a narcissistic parent. I have been constantly told "what I feel" and "what I am supposed to feel". Wild mythologies have been created, and told to me, concerning why I might be angry, sad or frustrated. I was taught that my negative feelings can never be the result of something the narcissists did or said.

 

I am not trying to ascribe narcissism to you, but it seems to me that NVC is a perfect tool for people with narcissistic tendencies. Parroting a statement, interpreting it and doing some guesswork on what the hidden unfulfilled needs of the other person might be, puts the person doing NVC in an outwardly superior position. Repeating a statement and describing a potential feeling of someone merely mimic empathy but don't actually involve "feeling yourself into someone else".

It also gives a narcissist the chance to claim he or she is empathetic purely because feelings where mentioned. Not because he or she was actually feeling what someone else felt.

 

It seems to me that it is a very cold, analytic process to just point out someone elses potential needs instead of just trying to put oneself into the other person's shoes. If one actually "feels" with the other, it is usually rather easy to know what to say or which action to take.

 

If I am feeling bad, I am not impressed by someones ability to guess and verbalize my emotions. I am impressed and helped by someone being helpful, responding to me, not parroting me. This is particularly true if I don't know this person who is trying NVC with me.

What the NVC-person is really doing is proving that he or she can read my clues and make some guesses.

Psychopaths -and narcissists- are brilliant at reading people but have no empathy.

 

On the other hand, if one is unsure what the person feels, what is wrong with simply asking?

While I personally appreciate being asked, I experience being told what I feel as condescending and arrogant.

I personally prefer treating adults as adults first and if I feel someone lacks the ability to express his or her emotions I try to give a helping hand.

 

In the example with your faux pas: if you think you know what feelings are going on, why do you have to tell everyone your guess? Why not prove your insight instead of boasting with it? Why not simply react on what vibes you take in? If you truly have empathy you will feel if your assessment is right or wrong.

 

Like wdiaz03 said, why not just start a conversation instead of potentially making everyone feel even more awkward.


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#4
Marc Moini

Marc Moini
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A rather awkward response from 16 year old. how about

"Not Bad, Thank you Cynthia"

 

I agree, this would also have avoided the unhappiness, the way I see it.

 

Yes, at the time I was making the assumption that he wanted feedback on the food. Today though I think I'm only guessing. That's one thing I believe NVC is helping me become aware of, to not make assumptions but only guesses, and to ask whether my guess is correct or not. Do you think I'm still making assumptions?

 

And yes, if I had thought he was breaking the ice then I agree that bringing up a topic would also have resulted in a more satisfactory outcome for me and probably the others as well.

 

Thanks for your feedback!


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#5
Marc Moini

Marc Moini
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Kaki, sure, ask me anything you want.

 

"why not just start a conversation instead of potentially making everyone feel even more awkward"

 

It seems to me that part of my intent with the reply I would give Philip now is to start a conversation. Only I'm adding an extra step that you don't add, and this is what you find uncomfortable or rather frightening, as far as I can tell.

 

 

"Why not simply react on what vibes you take in?"

 

I sense that Philip is feeling awkward, wants to make his girlfriend and everyone else feel more at ease. In this same situation your reaction, or wdiaz03's reaction would be to act on that directly, trusting your perception, from empathy, if I understand correctly. So you would reply to Philip "Not bad, thank you Cynthia" and you'd follow with "So Cynthia, how are you liking it so far?" or something along those lines.

 

My reaction back then was different. I was disconnecting from my feelings in order to protect myself from feeling too much of the pain and sadness I would experience otherwise. Growing up I had no idea how to deal with the most difficult of the situations I found myself in, any other way than by shutting down my feelings*. Because of this I was unable to sense what was going on for Philip or anyone else, hell I wasn't aware of what was going on in myself! So it is true that I had almost no empathy, and as a result I was permanently on guard, or almost permanently, the exceptions being the situations where I felt safe enough, like this dinner. I was on guard because I had no way of knowing how people felt, what they were likely to do next, and I had a number of people around me whose moods seemed unpredictable to me, like my dad or some people at school. I could only avoid trouble by staying hyper-vigilant and reacting to whatever small clues I could pick up, in the manner of these people you describe who "read" others without being able to use their natural empathy for this. 

 

I can't tell you how sad I am that you see these people as monsters out to get you, when to me they appear as desperate people who haven't had the chance to learn how to cope with life any other way than by crawling into a shell and attacking everyone who comes near, out of fear that people are going to harm them. Please understand, I'm not blaming you in any way, I know you've had it pretty difficult as well, and you also are only trying to protect yourself. I find it so tragic that people who I think could get along and have a wonderful time all together (I'm not saying they should! just that it might be possible, if they knew how, and then perhaps they'd want that), each end up isolated and afraid and putting the blame on others who are mostly doing the same things. It seems to me that what is missing here is knowledge of how to communicate with oneself and others, as well as this big picture idea that everyone is only trying to get by, it's out of ignorance that we end hurting ourselves and others. I know it's really difficult to see it this way when you've been on the receiving end of punition at the hand of people who even said they wanted to hurt you.

 

So anyway, the extra step I take now is that I ask people whether my perception of how they're feeling and what is important to them in the moment, whether this perception is accurate. I do have some of my empathy back, now, and I do rely on it, but I still check with people when I'm not sure enough. My reason for checking is that I've found that assumptions are dangerous, they can make me believe I'm doing something people want me to do when in fact that's not the case. Yeah it sounds a bit awkward at times to have people ask if that's how you feel and whether you're after this or that, or it sounds condescending like I think you don't know what you feel or what you want, especially when it comes from a non-native English speaker like myself. Personally I find this is a small price to pay, compared to the pain that can arise from misinterpretation or misunderstanding or miscommunication. I keep having a lot of those even with my best efforts to avoid them, and it hurts, so I prefer to double-check when I think there is a risk. And I check both ways, I also ask people if what I've understood is what they want me to understand, because I'm no more immune to misunderstanding that anyone else.

 

Does this answer your questions?

 

I'll be glad to talk about this or any other questions you might have, on video via Jitsi or Skype or Google Hangouts. It's important for me to share what I've learned from NVC, I would really like it if more people got the same benefits I am getting from learning these ideas and practices, and one of the main obstacles to this for me here on FDR has been going through text. I find that it is much easier to understand each other on video.

 

 

*If I could go back knowing what I've learned since, the situations would start the same but I would know what to do to change them to be more satisfying for everyone involved. Even those that I couldn't change, I would see from a different perspective, a truer one in my opinion (more in line with reality), and I wouldn't be affected the way I was before, and so I wouldn't be reduced to disconnecting from my feelings.


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#6
wdiaz03

wdiaz03

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....

 

So anyway, the extra step I take now is that I ask people whether my perception of how they're feeling and what is important to them in the moment, whether this perception is accurate. I do have some of my empathy back, now, and I do rely on it, but I still check with people when I'm not sure enough. My reason for checking is that I've found that assumptions are dangerous, they can make me believe I'm doing something people want me to do when in fact that's not the case. Yeah it sounds a bit awkward at times to have people ask if that's how you feel and whether you're after this or that, or it sounds condescending like I think you don't know what you feel or what you want, especially when it comes from a non-native English speaker like myself. Personally I find this is a small price to pay, compared to the pain that can arise from misinterpretation or misunderstanding or miscommunication. I keep having a lot of those even with my best efforts to avoid them, and it hurts, so I prefer to double-check when I think there is a risk. And I check both ways, I also ask people if what I've understood is what they want me to understand, because I'm no more immune to misunderstanding that anyone else.....

 

 

I could be wrong, but I think this approach has to be carefully implemented or it could backfire. Not everyone whats to hear the truth. It would be like you speaking a totally different language. Even worse a language where words that you think are nice are insulting.

 

For example:

What if Philip was just trying to score brownie points with Cynthia. He wants to complement her but knows that the complement coming from him would seem dishonest (she always says "You are just saying that because I'm your girlfriend).

So he asks the rest of the group to give their opinion of the chicken expecting nice comments in return and confirming what he told her in private that the chicken was good.

When you spoke your mind, he immediately insulted you and defended her (Her knight in shinny armor)

 

Now go back in time and respond as you suggested in the original post. Isn't there a chance that he would say something like.

-Marc who made you the camp psychologist? Are you trying to impress Cynthia? She's a little out of your league don't you think?

 

And in effect change nothing.

 

My point is that there are subtle ways of finding out if people want to get involved in honest communication. There's a time and place.

 

For example you notice a coworker no longer eating lunch as she used to,

- Hi Linda Is everything OK?

- I'm fine Marc, Thanks.

- You don't seem OK Linda, Are you a bit concerned perhaps that you have been putting on a lot of weight lately, there are better ways of loosing weight than skipping meals, perhaps I can offer some good tips?

 

She might hear:

You are getting FAT and are going about it all wrong, Let me school you on what to do.

 

My two cents, (pre 1986 BTW)


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"So I say, “Live and let live.” That’s my motto. “Live and let live.” Anyone who can’t go along with that, take him outside and shoot the motherfucker. It’s a simple philosophy, but it’s always worked in our family." - George Carlin


#7
Marc Moini

Marc Moini
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So you're concerned that what I see as a way of helping people get along better and be happier together, might actually make things worse in some situations, because people might hear the message in a different way that it's intended? Sure, I think it's possible, that it's even very likely that people will interpret my words in ways I don't expect. I get this all the time, as we all do I believe.

 

If your concern is rather about the possibility that I mistakenly believe someone is after one thing, when in fact they are after another, like Philip maybe wanted to please Cynthia when I thought he might be wanting to break the ice (and at the time I thought he wanted my opinion on the food), that's quite likely as well, I think.

 

But my interpretation of your post is I think you're pointing out that before asking people if they feel a certain way and presenting my guesses as to what they might be wanting right now that makes them feel that way, I'd be well advised to first check with them if they are willing to talk at this level or not (what you refer to as honest communication), because otherwise my enquiry might produce the opposite result from what I want, and them or me or others or any combination of those involved might end up more dissatisfied.

 

If so I agree, I think it's a good idea to be as sensitive as I know how to. I'm learning to do this, it seems to me that this is something that everyone can learn if they want to. I see two main parts to this learning, but maybe you're not interested in me saying what they are for me, because that might be me schooling you!  :-)

 

Thanks for your feedback.


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#8
wdiaz03

wdiaz03

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So you're concerned that what I see as a way of helping people get along better and be happier together, might actually make things worse in some situations, because people might hear the message in a different way that it's intended? Sure, I think it's possible, that it's even very likely that people will interpret my words in ways I don't expect. I get this all the time, as we all do I believe.

 

If your concern is rather about the possibility that I mistakenly believe someone is after one thing, when in fact they are after another, like Philip maybe wanted to please Cynthia when I thought he might be wanting to break the ice (and at the time I thought he wanted my opinion on the food), that's quite likely as well, I think.

 

But my interpretation of your post is I think you're pointing out that before asking people if they feel a certain way and presenting my guesses as to what they might be wanting right now that makes them feel that way, I'd be well advised to first check with them if they are willing to talk at this level or not (what you refer to as honest communication), because otherwise my enquiry might produce the opposite result from what I want, and them or me or others or any combination of those involved might end up more dissatisfied.

 

If so I agree, I think it's a good idea to be as sensitive as I know how to. I'm learning to do this, it seems to me that this is something that everyone can learn if they want to. I see two main parts to this learning, but maybe you're not interested in me saying what they are for me, because that might be me schooling you!  :-)

 

Thanks for your feedback.

 

My two cents,

 

All well said, Up to the last paragraph where you put into question my interested for your approach and my desire of not wanting to be schooled.

So again you put the other party in an awkward position. Should I now attempt to prove to the group that I'm not a pompous self absorbed narcissist by telling you to please go ahead and post your two part approach to learning. Or should I conclude that the approach is not that effective since you dropped that little gem at the end of your post. Hmmm decisions decisions.

 

Now if it was me, I would have said something like :I'm doing X and Y, I would love to hear feedback on this method etc" ;) 

 

Then again, that just me.


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"So I say, “Live and let live.” That’s my motto. “Live and let live.” Anyone who can’t go along with that, take him outside and shoot the motherfucker. It’s a simple philosophy, but it’s always worked in our family." - George Carlin


#9
Marc Moini

Marc Moini
  • 425 posts
Thanks for telling me this. As I said, I'm learning, and I do make mistakes. I didn't stop and listen to what I was saying from another point of view than mine, I was happy that I had caught myself as I was getting into schooling mode, and I didn't look further, I guess I was a bit tired from the effort of trying to figure out from your words what exactly it was that you were communicating to me. I find this easier to do via voice than text.
 
I'm grateful you are helping me learn by pointing out my mistakes to me, and by also offering an example (this is what I find helps me most) of what you would have found a more satisfactory reply. I'm glad as well that you didn't decide that I am beyond help, because I appreciate having this sort of exchange, it brings me a lot of satisfaction when we can understand each other*.
 
I like "I'm doing X and Y, I would love to hear feedback on this method etc", it doesn't imply any criticism of the other person. What if I had written "I see two main parts to this learning, I would like to say what they are, but I'm afraid of sounding like I'm trying to give advice when you haven't asked for it." would that have worked for you as well?
 
I don't remember what those two things were, that I wanted to say. Maybe it'll come back to me later. Thanks again!
 
 
*plus the pleasure of learning something new, and the thought that this exchange is contributing to better communication between people and it is bringing us closer to the future I want to live in.

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#10
wdiaz03

wdiaz03

  • 235 posts

 

Thanks for telling me this. As I said, I'm learning, and I do make mistakes. I didn't stop and listen to what I was saying from another point of view than mine, I was happy that I had caught myself as I was getting into schooling mode, and I didn't look further, I guess I was a bit tired from the effort of trying to figure out from your words what exactly it was that you were communicating to me. I find this easier to do via voice than text.
 
I'm grateful you are helping me learn by pointing out my mistakes to me, and by also offering an example (this is what I find helps me most) of what you would have found a more satisfactory reply. I'm glad as well that you didn't decide that I am beyond help, because I appreciate having this sort of exchange, it brings me a lot of satisfaction when we can understand each other*.
 
I like "I'm doing X and Y, I would love to hear feedback on this method etc", it doesn't imply any criticism of the other person. What if I had written "I see two main parts to this learning, I would like to say what they are, but I'm afraid of sounding like I'm trying to give advice when you haven't asked for it." would that have worked for you as well?
 
I don't remember what those two things were, that I wanted to say. Maybe it'll come back to me later. Thanks again!
 
 
*plus the pleasure of learning something new, and the thought that this exchange is contributing to better communication between people and it is bringing us closer to the future I want to live in.

 

 

Hi Marc. I should mention that on your post  you did ended it with a smiley face, So I looked at it as a sort of joke which to me is Fine. So my reply was sort of a joke as well.

 

Your permission to post doesn't seem necessary, you are not schooling because you are posting about your approach.


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"So I say, “Live and let live.” That’s my motto. “Live and let live.” Anyone who can’t go along with that, take him outside and shoot the motherfucker. It’s a simple philosophy, but it’s always worked in our family." - George Carlin


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#12
Marc Moini

Marc Moini
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STer, I think your idea that NVC can be used to manipulate others comes from an incomplete surface understanding of NVC.

 

As I understand it, the core of NVC is about establishing the quality of relationship between people, that leads to everyone involved wanting to meet everyone's needs out of compassion.

 

I'm sad when I think that you don't understand this, that you have this distorted view of NVC. Because I would like you and everyone else to get the same benefits from NVC that it brought me.


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#14
Marc Moini

Marc Moini
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I doubt you can seriously look at my page on NVC and claim I have a surface understanding of it. I assure you I have far more than a surface understanding of it. I am sad when I think that you dogmatize NVC like a religion that, in itself, is a solution to everything and then, at the same time, use what actually is a surface understanding of it by robotically repeating the NVC language while failing to truly connect with the spirit of what someone is feeling or experiencing. Your intentions seem good, but you really seem stuck in a very narrow box of NVC and I wish you'd broaden to include other viewpoints, as well.

 

Aren't you the one claiming that it's impossible to connect with some people because they have no capacity for empathy? How is this not missing the whole point that NVC is making? There's no disclaimer in NVC saying "Warning - Cannot be applied with psychopaths", in fact Rosenberg warns against thinking that there's something wrong with people. Because of this I think the idea that some people have no empathy is the very negation of everything NVC is about!

 

I'm convinced you mean well, however. Just like you are thinking the same about me, I think. I understand I'm not getting through to you on this text-based forum, that you find me robotic and lacking in empathy. Let's talk on video, I'm hoping this will make it easier for us to understand each other.


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#16
Marc Moini

Marc Moini
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The protective use of force is indeed mentioned in NVC, but not to protect yourself against sociopaths. Again, Rosenberg specifically warns against thinking that there is something wrong with people, that there is such a person as a "sociopath" or a "psychopath". He says those are your evaluations, your labels that you put on people, and he explains how this prevents you from having empathy for these people.


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#18
Marc Moini

Marc Moini
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Hi Marc. I should mention that on your post  you did ended it with a smiley face, So I looked at it as a sort of joke which to me is Fine. So my reply was sort of a joke as well.

 

Your permission to post doesn't seem necessary, you are not schooling because you are posting about your approach.

 

Hi wdiaz03, thanks for these clarifications, I appreciate them.


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