NVC Practice Groups
It’s not enough to only study a new language... to learn it means also practicing it by talking and listening to other people who are using it as well. Learning Nonviolent Communication is no different.
Reading about NVC, watching videos or listening to people talk about it gives a decent understanding. Workshops and journalling will boost your learning by providing opportunities for practice and reflection.
Most people find this is not quite sufficient, however, and this is where the NVC Practice Group steps in providing motivation to keep going.
If you can’t find a suitable practice group close by, consider starting one yourself and contact us for assistance in leading the group. Practice groups are easy to set up, extremely flexible, and put you together with people committed to learn NVC.
Bellow is Ian Peatey's (NVC trainer) guide on how to set a practice group up:
Basically there are three things to get started:
Invite people interested to learn NVC or to deepen their learning. It is best to choose people willing to commit to a regular meeting and who live within a convenient distance.
The ideal group size is between 6 to 10 people. The group needs to have enough participants in order to get some variety in experience but not too many so that people have time to work on their own challenges.
I recommend meeting in someone’s home. It’s free, intimate and comfortable. If you decide somewhere else works better then make sure you have enough privacy for people to share deeper stuff and that the place is quiet.
3. Date and time
I suggest you allow 2-3 hours for the meeting. Less than 2 hours doesn’t allow for much more than checking in and out and any longer can make it hard for many people to commit.
Doodle is a convenient online scheduling tool to help set up a day and time that works for all involved – and it’s free.
The beauty of a practice group is its flexibility. You can decide to use the time together in whatever way would be most supportive for the group. I recommend three parts to the meeting and setting a rough time guide for each to help make sure there is enough time for each element.
1. Checking In
Start with an opening circle where everyone ‘checks in’ by sharing what’s alive in them right now. You can either go around the circle in order or give a free space where people share when they are ready. It’s useful for tuning in to the meeting and each other. It’s also great practice in self-awareness, expressing what’s really alive in a concise way and in listening to others with empathy.
At the end of the opening circle it’s a good idea to confirm or find the date for the next meeting. Even if you have a regular meeting time, it is helpful to hear who plans to be there and who has other plans.
Plan around 20 minutes for the opening circle.
This is the main section of the meeting and there are many possible ways to use this. Here are a few suggestions:
a. structured program: Follow a structured learning program over consecutive meetings. This is especially useful for groups who are relatively new to NVC.
b. pick a theme: Pick a theme to work with, either before the meeting or at the start. During the practice session consider role-playing with real situations related to the topic. Try to avoid only ‘talking about’ the theme which, although can often be interesting, isn’t really practice!
c. empathy: You may find someone in the group has some stuff going on for them and are in need of empathy. Devoting some time to this is great practice for them in finding what’s really alive and for the rest of the group to sharpen the skills of empathy.
d. what’s alive: Often when a specific situation comes up, such as a conflict between members of the group, it presents a chance to work with NVC on a live issue. There may also be a member of the group working with a challenge back home that could do with some practice and rehearsal about how they might handle it.
e. training sessions: For more advanced groups, and especially for those where people want to learn how to share NVC, a member of the group might lead a mini-workshop and bring a topic and exercises.
3. Closing Circle
The closing circle allows everyone to ‘check out’ of the meeting by sharing what needs were met and/or not met. What treasures, insights and learning are people taking away?
Make sure there is enough time at the end so the closing circle is not rushed – and that might mean cutting the practice section short if it starts to cut into the last 20-30 minutes of the meeting.
Keeping The Group Alive
Starting the group is often the easy bit. Keeping it going requires commitment and energy and rarely happens ‘by itself’. Some things to think about to help keep the group alive:
Frequency, length and place
Some groups meet at the same day every week, time and place. Others take a more flexible approach. Meeting too infrequently or frequently makes it more likely that people might drift away. I find meeting bi-weekly works well. Weekly is too much of a stretch for many and monthly leaves too much of a gap between meetings.
All of these are up to the group to decide. The most important thing is to establish and communicate clarity.
My experience is a group requires at least one person fully committed to keeping the group alive. This is someone who reminds people of times and places for meetings, keeps connection with the members of the group between meetings, collects ideas for topics and generally keeps communication open.
Changes to group membership
Inevitably people will leave the group for any number of reasons. Some people drift away and others leave with a more definite ‘I’m leaving’. This is unavoidable and rarely a cause for concern. When people do leave, consider getting feedback about anything happening or not happening in the group that led to their decision.
People will also want to join the group, either because they are invited or they found you and requested to join.
There’s no best way – some groups prefer to stay closed to new members and others are very fluid in terms of people coming and going. Either way works provided it’s a conscious choice by the group so my recommendation is for the group to decide early on their policy about accepting newcomers. Every decision the group needs to make can be turned into an NVC practice.
Leader or leaderless
For a beginner group it is crucial to have an adequate trainer as leader. Again there is no best way. A seasoned group can function perfectly well with or without a leader.
A leader of a group would usually start and close the meeting and manage the process, in particular how the time is used. They might also provide content such as topics or exercises, and if there is a leader this can be rotated between group members eventually.