I wrote about “vague demands” in an earlier post. A vague demand is an expression couched in NVC need-style language that masks moralism and demand. (For example, “that doesn’t meet my need for fairness”, or “accountability” or “respect”.) Most of what I hear from NVC practitioners (including teachers) when dealing with or coaching someone triggered are what I call vague demands.
A reader responded to the earlier post, and I understand his comments to say that that such remarks are expressions of “honesty”. I’ve heard that term used in this way before, and I’d like to suggest another viewpoint. Of course, one can express one’s opinions & judgments with “honesty”, but I don’t think that’s what Marshall had in mind when teaching about honest & empathy, and I certainly don’t think that kind of honesty helps to nurture inner & outer connection, leading to hearts awakened to joyful giving & receiving at a deep level.
I expect people to go through stages of deepening into NVC Consciousness, and perhaps NVC-sounding vague demands represents some progress. I’m not really sure it does, however, as I’ve so rarely heard practitioners (externally certified or otherwise, even certification assessors) get beyond that stage. Moreover, I see teaching and teaching materials propagating & reinforcing vague demands as if they were the real connecting stuff of Life. See today’s “NVC Quick Connect” newsleter for some examples, as well as the widely-circulated document on translating faux-feelings to needs, developed collaboratively at an IIT. My partner Holly had more to say about these issues today in a post called “Sounds like NVC, must be NVC …?” I recommend her post.
With help from Holly, I got it today that I’m especially distressed when NVC teachers use & teach vague demands. NVC as Marshall teaches & demonstrates (most of the time) is the approach I’m most inspired about and confident in, for solving the “significant problems of our time” (as Einstein put it). I want to see NVC’s potential power & depth shared effectively, and so I care a lot about what the teachers are modeling and teaching.
Holly & I came up with a simple test for whether we’ve really connected with a Need. The test is “Heart opening or heart closing?” For us and our students, this test helps us not to settle for NVC-sounding head stuff, and keep looking for the real gold. We’ve also realized that the whole idea of teaching & learning how to talk is almost guaranteed to lead to vague demands, because it’s so much easier to change words than change consciousness. So we no longer teach the four-step process, and instead re-interpret observations, feelings, needs, & requests as tools for clarity and self-connection. Once one makes the inner shift, we recommend speaking without conscious effort. Without the shift, the effort just clouds our awareness of our unawareness.