Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and Spirituality, how do those connect? Actually in lots of ways. But first let me get clear on how I’m using this term “spirituality”.
Of course spirituality means lots of different things to lots of different people. As it should. It is distinct from religious. ”Religious” means relating to or believing in a particular religion. Nonviolent Communication does not pertain to a single religious organization or group. You don’t need to believe in a Higher Power in order to use and get lots of benefit from NVC.
As I see it, “spirituality” is the individual’s way of constructing meaning. Spirituality is your particular world view and practice of self-growth and healing. And so that means it is going to vary from person to person. For one person spirituality looks like daily meditation and prayer. For another person spirituality looks like being in nature. And for another it looks like reading and journaling. And yet for still others it looks like using logic and the scientific process. Spirituality is whatever process you engage in which creates meaning, purpose, healing, and growth in your life.
So maybe you’re already seeing some of the ways that NVC and spirituality overlap. Nonviolent Communication is not only a way to communicate with people, but its also a whole way of seeing one’s self and others. Through NVC we see that there are universal human needs which generate our emotions. And this view can help us have tremendous healing and growth and transform the ways we interact with others. But allow me to show three ways I see these two concepts as interconnected.
First, both spirituality and Nonviolent Communciation require discipline, dedication, and practice. You don’t engage in your spiritual practice just once. In fact you engage with it on a regular basis because it improves the quality of your life. Nonviolent Communication works in the same way. Its not enough to just learn the tools once, to use them effectively one time in a workshop or counseling session. Using these tools is an active choice you’re confronted with in every moment. In order to be able to use these tools in the middle of a fight, we need to practice them daily. Practice expressing your feelings, and identifying your needs when positive, neutral, and negative events occur. Even if in the moment you can’t access these tools, afterwards write in a journal what you observed, what you felt, what you needed, and what request you would have liked to have made. See if there’s a NVC Practice Group in your area. Or find just one other person who also is interested in learning these skills and get together on a regular basis to practice. Whatever it takes to make these tools a regular part of your life.
Second, Nonviolent Communication also helps us connect with other humans in a deeper way. When you connect with another human in an intimate, vulnerable, way you’ll experience this sacred space for healing, growth, purpose, and meaning. Let me share a story to illustrate this. My father and I were on a service trip in Montana. And we had been fighting about some political views we had. It was pretty stressful, with lots of anger coming off of both of us. And then something shifted. I said to my Dad “you know, I feel really scared and sad that you don’t accept me as I am.” And then my Dad started crying and said “Oh son…I’m worried that I haven’t been a very good father.” It was a very rich moment. You could feel the tension between us melt away, and this deep and profound connection took its place. When we could each see each other’s sadness and fear we could hold and reassure each other, heal one another’s wounds, and help each other grow. Can you think of moments like this in your life? Moments where you were so radically open, vulnerable, and intimate with someone that real healing and growth occured? What’s more spiritual than that?
And finally, Nonviolent Communication helps us to be more connected to ourselves. These tools help us to listen to our core feelings and needs. We are able to understand at a deeper level what is happening in us and what is important to us in a given moment. How can we know what’s meaningful to us, or what needs healing, or where we want to grow if we’re not connected to ourselves? All spirituality tries to help individuals go within themselves to find the truth and purpose that we’re each seeking.
And Nonviolent Communication is no different.
KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.