SESSION TITLE: There are no Corners in a Circle: stories of NVC in Everyday Life
Convenor: Mariahn Scarborough
Recorder: Mariahn Scarborough
Others Present: Miri Caraway, Jori Manske, Suzanne Garrison


When we opened the space on Friday morning before the first session, Mariahn overheard someone say "…if you keep talking like that you will probably end up in the corner." It got her thinking…open space is a circle. There are no corners in a circle. This led to a desire to understand what that little bit of overheard conversation was about, and ultimately to a desire to hear some of the unheard stories of NVC and how it makes life more wonderful for people. The following were some of the stories that participants told.

Miri Caraway was introduced to NVC at a seminar with Marshall last February. She told a story of how she got some of her needs met with her adult son. It seems that while her son is a wonderful human being, he often expressed himself in demanding and violent ways. She observed that he had no hesitation about using swear words or the phrase, "Shut Up!", with anyone, including herself. When he did this she felt sadness because her need for respect was no being met. She expressed this to her son and asked him if he would be willing to tell her right now why he used that particular language. He replied that in his view it was one way that he could insure that he was being heard. Miri understood that his need to be seen and heard by her was not being met. This sharing created a connection that allowed both of them to get their needs met.

Miri also related a story about being confronted in a parking lot by someone who was angry because she parked her car too close to his. He was loud and verbally abusive. Miri's reply to this was a quiet request. "Would you be willing to express your anger differently?" The man simply dropped the subject and walked away.

Jori Manske expressed some concern about the nature of the request because it was so open ended. She told a story of a panhandler in her town who was refused by a mark. Athe panhandler followed the man and eventually killed him… certainly another way to express his anger.

This prompted Mariahn to tell a tale of being approached by a group of "street people" who were acting in ways that she felt afraid because her need for safety was being challenged. In that exchange she chose the strategy of empathizing with the people and attempting to find out what need thay had that was not being met. After several wrong guesses, they explained that a friend of theirs was sick and they had been trying all day to get together enough money so that she could go to a better shelter to sleep. After about twenty minutes of empathizing, the group sat together and processed other ways to get their needs met.

Jori Manske then explained that she and her husband are co-mediators. In a recent dispute between ex-spouses over child visitation, NVC was useful in creating an agreement between two people that got both their needs met, but a third person, the woman's fiancé, was not present. He was not amenable to the agreement and there for it was not followed through. In this story, NVC was helpful, but since everyone's needs were not met, it didn't work. This ongoing mediation will continue to include every adult involved. She described a qualified success without a sustainable agreement and included that as mediators they were going to try again for a more sustainable outcome.

Her story revealed some ideas about initiating the process of NVC. The group explored ways of discovering what needs are not getting met and how many people's needs must be considered. Jori offered the notion that one powerful way for her to become connected is to guess wrong about the needs that are not being met in the situation.

Suzanne Garrison offered a situation in her own life that she found less than satisfying for the group to use as practice. Suzanne works in a small office and her work group consists of three people. She noticed the other people in her group had lunch together nearly everyday, and often spoke in lowered tones together when she was around. In the months she had been there they had never asked her out to lunch with them. She was feeling sad because she was wanting a deeper connection to the people she worked so closely with. As the group engaged in dialog about this, she discovered a conflicting need in that she hoped that they would come to her and include her and she felt uncomfortable intruding on them. Jori, Susanne and Robert (a bubmlebee) engaged in a brief role-playing around this situation, however, time restraints disallowed us to play it out. Still the group got a chance to observe Jori guessing wrong about what Suzanne was needing and feeling and other possibilities were starting to emerge.

Jori offered a powerful way to connect was to give what you are needing at the beginning of the process.

Robert observed that there is always a risk when you make a clear and present request.

The group broke up late because of the group need to be at the closing.