How to have a fight to the life
By Kelly Bryson
When blaming is going on, which is another way of saying that a request for empathy, healing and reconnection is being made, I recommend taking one of the actions listed below. The order of these actions is hierarchical from the most effective to the least. I need also to be humble enough to recognize which of these actions I can do with honesty and integrity. By humble I mean that I am not overestimating my level of skill or present state of mind. I need to hold an accurate assessment of my ability to be present, and not be thinking I "should" be empathic, compassionate or more present than I am. For example, even if I recognize that empathy would probably be the most effective strategy for the occasion, I will still need to choose honesty at that moment if that is all I can give with congruence. A simple guideline is give empathy when you can, and honesty when you can't. For example, imagine your partner saying, "you just are not meeting my needs for relationship. And besides that you are selfish.". Here are some of the ways you could respond:
1. Empathize with the pain and unmet needs of which the blame is a tragic expression. You might say: "Are you feeling kind of lonely and hurt, and need more consideration of your needs?"
2. Express any regret you have for anything you've done – or haven't done - that might have triggered your partners pain. (Remember, you could not possibly cause it, only trigger it.) You might say: "I am sad that I forgot your birthday and went to play golf all day because I would have liked to have been there for you when you needed support."
3. Ask your partner for acknowledgment: you might say: "I am sad and would appreciate acknowledgment that I did remember your birthday for the last six years."
4. Ask your partner to acknowledge her regrets or actions you might say: "I am frustrated and would appreciate acknowledgment that you forgot my birthday too and I would like to hear how you felt about forgetting."
5. Give nonviolent self–responsible honesty. You might say : "I am feeling scared right now and need to protect myself from sinking into a guilt pit, I could get back to you in an hour?" ( and in that hour you may want to consult with your Giraffe (giraffe is a symbol or nickname for nonviolent communication) Journal, were you record all the wonderful things people have said to you and about you or call one of your empathy exchange partners. Remember that your empathy partners are those people in your support tribe that you call when you are in reaction and need supportive listening to process the reaction. Ideally it is a equal exchange between yourself and someone else was learning the art of empathy. Heinze Kohut, the existential psychologist, said that what humans beings need most is mirroring the presence of others.
6. Be quiet, and give yourself a chance to reconnect with that kind of energy and the intention that you would like to be coming from, before you respond. (This option can be useful at any of the above points.) You might say to yourself: "I am scared and angry right now. I am going to wait until when I say might help matters."
7. Be a jackal (the irrational, righteous part of ourselves that takes a position and it defends it to the death, that expresses itself as blame, analysis or judgment). Go ahead and be a jerk, but do it with the conscious intent to blow off steam, not cause injury. Even pronounce your intent. You might say: "This is my jackal voice, trying to free itself, talking here. Quit whining, you pathetic sack of self-pity."
8. Be a conscious Giraffe Fundamentalist and give a giraffe lecture like this: "when you are calling someone selfish, you are obviously in judgment, and wanting something for your self! So why is that not selfish?" Asking an angry "Why?" question is the best way I know of to look like a prosecuting attorney. A giraffe fundamentalist is someone who is a fundamentalist, usually recently born–again convert to nonviolent communication. They often use the lingo of the process to try to educate or convert others – meanwhile they have, for the moment, lost connection with the spirit of the process, which is compassion. I speak from experience because when I first learned NVC, I used the terminology to defend myself and to attack people, I was much more focused on preaching NVC then I was practicing NVC. As time has passed I have mellowed some and now try to keep my attention more focused on being a compassionate and honest giraffe than trying to get others to be giraffes. But for a long time if someone used language that did not fit the NVC paradigm, for example a label, judgment or exaggeration, I would practically scream at them, "that's violent judgmental communication!" And when they would get angry or hurt in response to my diatribe, I would launch into giraffe lecture mode: "I am not causing your painful feelings. It's what your inner jackal is telling you about what I said that is causing your pain." This was of course a defense from feeling guilty about triggering their anger or hurt. I only recommend the last two options as an alternative to becoming self-destructively violent. By self-destructively violent I mean shutting down due to your own thoughts of self judgment and the resulting feelings of fear, shame, and guilt. These last two can also be an alternative to unconsciously lashing out in anger with the intent to create pain.