Non-Violent Communication Can Save Your Marriage!

nvc-tree-of-lifeDo you find yourself having yelling matches with your spouse, in front of or within earshot of your kids, frequently enough that you and your spouse know it’s time for a change?

Most of the time when couples yell in fights, it’s because either one or both of the people in the couple have strong feelings which arise because a deep-seated need is not being met.

For instance, let’s say that a woman asks her spouse daily that before he go watch television after dinner, he clean up the counter and dishes there after she has done the cooking.  The cooking partner has to ask several times, nagging, and the frustration builds up.   More often than not, the evening erupts into a yelling match over dishes.  But we all know it’s not about dishes.  What it is about is the fact that the irritated partner feels ignored, disrespected, unheard, dismissed, unloved, and has needs for cooperation, consideration and equality that are not being met.

This is how Non-Violent Communication (NVC) works:  first off, the person who wants to communicate her feelings starts off by identifying the moment/behavior/action of the person she is communicating with which most causes her to feel these strong feelings, in an objective way.  In this case, it’s the moment when her partner gets up from the table and goes to the couch instead of spending some time clearing and cleaning up after dinner.

In NVC, you start off a conversation with this identifying action.  You say, “When I see you get up from the table to watch television without clearing dishes or cleaning up…”  This wording has the feel of looking through a camera lens.  You simply communicate what you see, without judgment or hard criticism.

The next step is to clearly identify how this behavior/action makes you feel, and to be specific.  Rather than saying it makes you mad, say it makes me feel dismissed, ignored and disrespected – much stronger and more specific feelings which land with more clarity and emotional strength for the person listening.

Then you add to the statement of communication:  “When I see you get up from the table to watch television without clearing dishes or cleaning up, I feel ignored, disrespected and dismissed…”

Then you identify the underlying need that is not being met, and which is causing the strong feelings to erupt:  “When I see you get up from the table without clearing dishes or cleaning up, I feel ignored, disrespected and dismissed because I need cooperation, equality and consideration…”

The last part of the statement is a request.  After you explain what happened and how it makes you feel, what needs are underlying the strong feelings, you request if the person would be willing to act in a new way to correct course and prevent this hurt in future.

A final NVC statement would look like this:  “When you get up from the table and start watching television without clearing dishes or cleaning up, I feel ignored, disrespected and dismissed because I need cooperation, equality and consideration.  In future, would you be willing to help me to clear the table and clean the dishes and countertops before you turn on the television?”

This is very clear, it is not accusatory, it is not said while yelling.  It is straightforward, specific and proactive in what it communicates and requests gently a new action/behavior which is supportive and appropriate.

So the next time you and your spouse are veering towards a yelling match, stop, take a deep breath, and try this NVC methodology out:  describe the action objectively, state the feelings that arise when this action occurs, what the underlying unmet need is, and what if he or she would be willing to act differently in future so this hurt/feelings can be avoided.

You may be surprised at your spouse’s willingness to change when you approach him/her with calm, clarity, specificity, vulnerability, proactivity and gentleness.

Wishing you all the best as you consider using NVC to redesign your marital communication!

What’s Your Type?

nine personality types on blackboardThe Enneagram is a robust system of personality, self-awareness and personal growth. As parents, we are challenged daily to grow ourselves into our best selves so as to meet the developing needs of our children in a peaceful and loving manner. The Enneagram can offer a path out of ineffective parenting patterns such as reacting to children with shortness, yelling and using punishments.  Once you identify your core personality type, it can be studied, practiced and incorporated into one’s behaviors to show up for our children and the rest of our lives with more grace and effectiveness.

The Enneagram is different from more commonly known personality typing tools, like the Meyer’s Briggs, because it provides more than a static snapshot or box that people fit into in terms of their tendencies and behaviors.

The Enneagram is an ancient personality system which aims to capture the 9 personality types present in the human family. The types include The Reformer (1), The Giver (2), The Achiever (3), The Individualist (4), The Investigator (5), The Loyalist (6), The Enthusiast (7), The Challenger (8) and The Peacemaker (9). The names of the personality types come from the ways in which each type attempts to make its mark on the world, and respond to its need for love and recognition. Each type behaves in specific ways to gain approval and earn the love that we all seek as human beings, starting from a young age.

In addition to providing a current view of how a person is behaving, the Enneagram system is built upon the idea that personalities, and people, evolve over time. The more a person knows about him/herself and his/her behaviors, takes conscious action to untangle misconceived ideas about love and belonging, and becomes fully self-accepting, self-realized and effective in the world, the more each type evolves to become their highest self.

I came across the Enneagram many years ago when I was having challenges in a relationship and at work, with people who often seemed to speak a different language than I did in their behaviors and assumptions.

At that time, my father had just passed away and I had just begun the arduous journey of becoming an inner city public high school teacher. I was under stress and was typed as an Enneagram 4 — the Individualist. I was withdrawn, focused on how different I was from others, and often assumed that no one else saw the same issues and problems that I saw in the same ways.

I came to realize when I began my coaching program two years ago, that I had been mis-typed. Each Enneagram personality not only has a type that we evolve to, but also a type that we go to under stress. I am actually an Enneagram Type 1, the Reformer. The Reformer is concerned with doing the right thing, serving people, and is very values and ethics-based with decision-making.

All personality types have wonderful qualities, but they also have patterns which can create problems, especially around self-criticism and perfectionism.

It is my self-development work to evolve to a Type 7, The Enthusiast, to overcome my patterns and assumptions about people and how to go about gaining love. In fact, when one evolves to their highest self/type using the Enneagram system as a tool, life no longer is about approval and seeking love from the outside, but rather about being true to oneself, living from a place of deep authenticity, integration, peace and flow.


Getting My Body Back After Baby

Becoming pregnant and having a baby were by far the biggest blessings of my life. However, the process of being pregnant, having a child and then bouncing back physically has been one of the most difficult processes I can remember.

When I became pregnant in October 2008, it took only a few months until I would walk by a mirror and literally not recognize (or like very much!) what I saw looking back. I had been in great shape prior to getting pregnant as we were readying for our wedding and got pregnant the weekend after. I went from feeling strong and confident about the shape I was in to, as a pregnant mama, feeling bloated, exhausted, and by the end, huge. I put on a total of 40 pounds during my pregnancy. I lost control over what I ate and didn’t exercise except walking and yoga because whenever I tried to, it didn’t feel right because my body got too hot making me feel it was unsafe for the baby, so I gave up on it. Yoga helped relieve tension in my body so I stuck with that. Continue Reading

Finding Purpose as a Mompreneur

Jen Harris with her family

Jen Harris with her family

When I was planning our wedding in 2008 I was looking for the perfect photographer. I knew I’d find the right person when I saw the right image with a balance of artistry, emotional charge and that years-in-an-album memorability. When a google search landed me at Jen Harris’ gallery of wedding photography images, I knew in my gut I had found our match.

We had a relatively small wedding photography budget and I figured someone who produced this level of beauty in her images would charge at the highest rates. Most photographers I had started to explore were charging $5000 and more for one day of wedding shooting.

I picked up the phone and called her. In minutes, she was telling me her own story as a Mompreneur, how she decided to pursue her passion for photography as a home based business when she fell in love with capturing images of her own children. Creating this business gave her the opportunity to be with her children as often as she wanted to. And, she added, it wasn’t really about making money (gasp!) as much as it was about providing a high quality, relationship-building service to people during one of the most important times of their lives. Her values of quality, service, artistry and relationships come through in all of her photos and in her business. Continue Reading