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Why Words Don’t Help


Your partner is hurting over an argument the two of you had.  You work hard to say all the right things and your partner says, "That doesn't help!"  What happened?  How could you have said everything in the right way, and still be told you are not connecting?  It's easy to turn and blame your partner at this point, but before you do, let's look at something else that might be happening.

In NVC, words are often a starting place for beginners.  The NVC vocabulary and sentence structure are like a handrail that you hold onto as you find your way on a new path.  The hope behind the offering of this handrail is that it will lead you to your heart and to the hearts of others.  Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn't.  It's complicated, and finding your heart in times of stress can be difficult.

Any kind of emotional rupture requires an emotional response to reconnect.  When you are working hard to find the right words so your partner will feel better, you are responding from your head.  Regardless of the words, you offer a mental solution to an emotional problem.  When this kind of miss happens, you might hear your partner say things like:  "You're so cold.",  "You don't really care!", "You are just saying things you don't really mean.",  "I don't know who you are right now.",  "Can't you get out of your head!", "You can't fix this with NVC."

What your partner is really trying to say is something like this:  "I want to feel you with me in a feeling place, because from there I know we can reconnect.  Please take the time you need to find what's in your heart and share that with me."  If you choose to hear and receive this expression, there are some simple things you can do to drop from your head to your heart.  Let's look at a few:

  • Take a slow deep breath and close your eyes, releasing tense muscles as you do.

  • Remind yourself that no amount of thinking will help you reconnect with your partner right now.

  • Ground yourself with the reassurance that you are not under threat, and that both you and your partner want to reconnect despite the difficult reactions you have both had.

  • Take another slow deep breath, this time breathing through your heart.

  • Invite feelings into your awareness.  You might say something like:  "It's okay to feel what I feel."

  • Continue focusing on breathing through your heart and let your mind be still.

  • As feelings and sensations come into your awareness, express them to your partner.

When you direct your attention in this way, and express from this feeling place, your partner will feel you with him or her.  If you both are committed to being present for difficult feelings as well as pleasing ones, you will find that reconnecting can be simple and doesn't require a stream of complicated words.

Understanding the concepts and doing the steps I name above is not so hard.  What's difficult is shifting what you have trusted most in your life - your super sharp problem-solving intellect.  Deciding to trust your heart in the moment, takes courage and effort.  And, as you do this more and more you build a path to your heart that is easy to follow.


This week watch for moments when someone is approaching you with an emotional problem and you are offering a mental solution.  When you catch yourself, start to shift by simply focusing on taking one breath through your heart.


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1 Response

  1. Apr 04, 2014
    Dale Grealish

    As a beginner in NVC I really appreciate these gems of learning. This one about coming from the heart and getting out of the head is priceless.
    I look forward to trying out. I think it will help smooth out the edges as I learn NVC. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and knowledge.

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