Last month I read some comments by a colleague in the NVC community. She was part of a a discussion on whether NVC can bring about social change, and I liked very much the questions she was asking. In order to remind myself of the context more usefully, I choose to quote some of her input here:

“How do I request that homework be abolished?”
“Many people have asked me over the years, “How do I get my child to do their homework without nagging them or without resorting to punishment and reward?” No one has ever asked me, “How can I approach my child’s school and remind the good people there that family time is precious to us and that they spend more time with my child than I do? How do I then make the request that homework be abolished?” No one has ever asked me, “How do I deal with the conflict that arises within me around sending my child to an institution so they can become “educated” by the state when I’m not in any way convinced that the “education” they receive is relevant to what’s happening in the world? How do I deal with the fact that the education system appears to be a direct feeder into the consumer exploitative machine?” 

Many people have asked me over the years, “How do I establish a more harmonious and respectful relationship with my boss?” No one has ever asked me, “How do I speak to my spouse and children when I find myself unable to return to a job or career that essentially does harm to the world even though most people would never see it in such light and would love to trade places with me? How do I speak to my family about the significant financial impact it will have on them and the way we live?” 

We are products of our lives
Many people have asked me over the years, “How do I get my needs met?” No one has ever asked me, “Is it possible, given the extent that I have been conditioned by the consumer driven society into which I was born, that I might not really know what I need and that I have a long road to travel before I can understand the meaning of what is truly life-serving?” 

She then goes on to saying that it might be easy to share NVC without any social and environmental references. That touches me. I truly believe that the way we communicate and interact is a product of all our years of living, with input from parents, kindergarten, family members, the Church/Mosque/Synagogue/Temple/Other, school, friends, our neighbourhood, our travels, our work, colleagues, and more. And so yes, NVC is shared within a social environment, and I like thinking about it that way. Furthermore, I think the only useful way for me to think about NVC is being aware of the social conditioning that has taken place for all of us, to a larger or a smaller extent. That does not make any of it good or bad (as I do not agree with these two terms), and it makes me want to be even more conscious of the social context (or even the environmental, political or economic context) in which we have grown up and been learning.

It helps us to wake up, to understand ourselves and our communication better, and it helps us see what needs others were meeting when sharing and teaching us, and which needs we were trying to meet when we more or less accepted these teachings. This “relativism” is very important to me, and I wish to bring it with me into my world as I share more and more NVC.