February 23rd, 2007

Promises, predictions, and wishes

Sometimes people practicing (even teaching) NVC say things like “I want you to do xyz from now on”, or “I want you not to do xyz again”. Or they may cloud the issue even further by saying something like “I want to trust that you won’t do xyz again”. (See “Trust that”.) Marshall generally recommends making requests present, positive, specific, and doable. So do I. The whole idea of a future request or commitment is at odds with spontaneous, living Choice. I don’t know whether many NVC folks get that. I’ve watched Kelly Bryson handle a future request in a group, and he certainly gets it. If I say yes to a future request, then am I duty-bound to do it and wrong to make a different choice?

One response to “I want you to xyz from now on” (or “I want to trust that …”) is simply “Oh”. It’s not really a need or a request, but rather what Marshall calls a “wish”, so I probably don’t want to respond as if it were a request and feed the speaker’s or group’s confusion. If I’m in an empathic space, I might try to tune in through the wish and guess at a present feeling or need. Or if I’m more interested in getting the exchange unstuck, I might ask “And what is it you would like from me right now?”. I’ve watched Marshall do that when someone is consuming group attention without getting to a request. Usually the person doesn’t know, and then I might say “I’d like to move on then, and I invite you to make a request later when you figure out what it is.” Or in the “trust that” example, the person might make the request for the future. In that case, I like the response “Right now I cannot predict what will be my best choice in the future, so I don’t see how I could honestly do as you ask”.

I like to hear all promises as predictions, and since predictions are iffy so are promises. A more useful request would be “Please let me know now if you can foresee any reason to do xyz again in the future”. Another is “Please let me know what your intention is right now about doing xyz again in the future”. And the answer might be “Right now I have no intention one way or the other. My choice will depend on circumstances.”


Leave a Reply

(You can use HTML in your comments. The Preview button below shows you what your comment will look like when posted.)