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Facilitated by Jim Thompson

Sunday’s workshop was a chance to explore the world we want to be living in, where we can ask for what we want, and respond to what others want with the most harmony and care. “Yes” and “No” are two words we learn very early on in our life, and so they have a lot of meaning and history to them, and they are crucially connection to knowing what we want, asking for it and noticing how others respond to our questions. We started by looking at the words to a song: "You Owe Me Nothing In Return" by Alanis Morissette. 

I'll give you countless amounts of outright acceptance if you want it

I will give you encouragement to choose the path that you want if you need it

You can speak of anger and doubts, your fears and freak outs and I'll hold it

You can share your so-called shame filled accounts of times in your life and I won't judge it

(and there are no strings attached to it)

You owe me nothing for giving the love that I give

You owe me nothing for caring the way that I have

I give you thanks for receiving it's my privilege

And you owe me nothing in return

(full song lyrics attached)

For me, this song expresses the way I want to live my life – to be able to fully and joyfully accept others, and also be accepted unconditionally by others. And it’s about both personal, intimate relationships, but also really how I want to be in the world with friends, bosses, colleagues, community, society and world cultures, animals, nature, etc. I want to live in a way that shows that my needs and the needs of others really matter and can be considered. And it can be difficult to even imagine what that might be like. This song helps guide me toward a state of mind, a way of being, a set of skills that seem close to the life I want us all to be living.

Next, we broke into two groups and brainstormed about our vision of the way we’d like to be living. This discussion went from the individual, to partnerships, to social and global ways of being. We also briefly talked about what interfered with our ability to ask for what we want. With this vision in mind, we reviewed the basic NVC skill of Observation, Feelings, Needs and Requests, and explored how these skills could help us create the world we want.

In groups of three we practiced making requests. A asked B to play the part of a person, an agency or a force of nature, then made a request of B. B responded to the request with honesty. C called a pause to help each person check in to their feelings and needs as they made or heard the request. We took time to review that requests are specific, in present time, and stated in a positive sense (what we want, not what we don’t want). The primary focus is on A to practise knowing what they want and asking for it, then getting empathy for any emotional reactions (including celebration) for asking clearly. A couple of group members asked to extend the morning, so we continued with the third exercise – connecting to when we first learned to say or hear yes and no. Again, in threes, A played the part of a child, B played to part of an adult, and C was the observer/coach. B asked the child (A) to do something (either as a demand or as a request), and A had the option of responding with an enthusiastic Yes or No. C helped each person check in with their physical and emotional responses, looking for the implicit messages we learned growing up. Then we switched and the child asked the adult, who responded with an enthusiastic Yes or No, and again, each person was supported to check in with their automatic responses. After lunch, we returned to making requests, and searching for ways to first, give a loving no, then also to keep our curiosity and connection so we could look for new ways to continue to get our needs met, even if it meant giving up the original strategy. We don’t have to hear someone’s No as a demand. This became a very interesting a freeing discussion, with C again helping each person to get the empathy they needed to be able to stay present and conscious enough to respond consciously instead of react unconsciously.

Thanks to everyone who participated and made the day fun, satisfying and rewarding.

Jenna Card
CNVC Certified Trainer
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