I feel inspired to share this experience I had with my mum as a way to highlight how nonviolent communication (NVC) practice has helped me in dealing with conflict. My mum recently had a hip replacement and this is a couple of situations that occurred prior to her being admitted to hospital.
I experience my mum is an independent lady who is capable of meeting challenges and I guessed she would be nervous about going in to hospital. After some discussion she agreed to me going with her for the pre op assessment. This took a big of navigating. She wasn't keen at first and I noticed tension in myself. I wanted both to consider hers and my needs. I firstly heard what was important for her. She said she had always 'just got on with things herself' (sound familiar) and she enjoyed being independent. I asked her to hear my needs to care and that I was curious if she could see any benefits in having support. I asked her did she think that by accepting support could she see that she was actually contributing to my well-being? She said she had never thought of it like that before.
I suggested we have dinner the night before. I wanted to hear if there was anything that she was feeling nervous about. After we chatted about her fears and she was feeling more relaxed I got ready to leave. I was just about to go when she told me she had an idea that she would like me to think about. What she said took me by surprise. She suggested that she sells her property and I sell mine and we get a place together where she can live in an extention and help me with airbnb (I do this at times to support my sustainability). Instantly I could feel a tension in me and a strong sense of wanting to protect myself. I did say no at this point and said it wasn't something I would want to consider without having a partner. She said she understood that. I left feeling deeply sad. Sad because I don't have a partner to share life's decisions with and that my mum seemed so keen on fulfilling her needs with that strategy. I sat for a while in the needs that were important to me; partnership, contribution, care and probably more than that. When I felt myself softening I started to guess the needs of my mum. I was guessing companionship, meaning, purpose and perhaps to know that she matters. After I did this I could feel strongly that I wanted to talk to her about this.
On the drive to the hospital the following day I took the opportunity to talk to her about what was on my mind. Pulling on my NVC training, I put it to her in this way. "Mum, when I heard you say last night that you wanted us to buy a place together I'm wondering if it's more company that you would like"? "Yes, she said I suppose I would like more company". "And I'm also wondering if you would like to have more meaning and purpose in our relationship? I had been wondering if not having grandchildren was important for mum. We then had an open discussion about how children can bring meaning to relationships and that for me I couldn't imagine anything that could be more meaningful than to care for children. She said she realised that through speaking with some friends who had grandchildren for some of them they struggle to care for the children without it having a detrimental impact on them. She acknowledged that perhaps being a grandmother wasn't necessarily what she wants at this time of her life. I asked her if we could connect to the ways we already have meaning and purpose together and we came up with some examples ie we were on our way to the hospital together and in that moment that held meaning and purpose, I told her that I appreciated her cooking meals for me particularly when I have a full schedule and don't always want to cook, that I can discuss my art projects with her as she has experience that I don't have. When we slow done and pay attention to where needs are met in our lives it's possible to live with more appreciation and gratitude for what we already have. From this place I notice where I can 'improve' and strive to always do my best regardless of the circumstances.
On reflection and after sharing this situation with an NVC trainer Miki Kashtan (www.thefearlessheart.org) we were able to consider some of the important elements of NVC practice. When I break this situation down I can see
- The ability to hold my pain and not to lash out
- To reflect and go into self empathy first
- Once I soften I can guess the needs of other
- To go back and speak in observation, keep it short and simple and be open to hearing the other
- Most importantly, take the risk to be vulnerable and speak truly and with transparency.
I'm very grateful for my mum and the learning and growth I experience through our relationship.