“Communication & Empathy”

We began with a Marshall Rosenberg quote that foreshadowed where we, Gary and I, were going with the Communication and Empathy curriculum. 

“The more we connect with the feelings and needs behind our words the less frightening it is to open up to people.” One of the guys wrote the quote on the board for us.

Because of what has been brought up a couple of times here about issues like being forgotten, I came up with a few sentences that address the problem of visitors not showing up a la Non-Violent Communication as a way to lead into today’s class.

One example cited of how they might say or write what they felt and needed was:

“I miss talking to you because I care about you. It’s lonely in here. I feel hurt when you don’t show up.”

Another example used to illustrate taking it a step further and making a request was:

“I feel upset when I’m looking forward to you visiting and you don’t come, because I want to know you care about and value me. Would you please, or would you be willing to let me know the next time you can’t get here to visit?”

This seemed like a good place to start by getting the men’s attention and valuing the experiences they shared during other classes.

We handed out the Needs Inventory and asked them to focus on the lists under Meaning, Connection, and To Matter, then to pick a need and think about it asking themselves:

Why is it important to you?

 And

 What does it mean to you?

A great discussion followed. Most of the men were involved. Honesty, appreciation, growth, mattering to myself, compassion, caring/ support/kindness and consideration were some of the themes they explored.

We suggested that the Needs Inventory list is a useful roadmap that enhances our working knowledge of Basic Goodness as we take a look at values like dignity and own them.

What’s uppermost of importance to me is that going in and our time spent with the guys makes an impact, a difference, and has a healing effect that the men can carry on with after we leave. The goal is maybe most significantly that the guys believe in themselves and have some experience and understanding of their Basic Goodness.

Each week we go deeper. Each week there is more trust, openness and warmth. How to write about this? I feel my words are inadequate. Last night reminded me of those moments in life, that because they feel sacred, you just let them be and don’t talk about them to anyone, so I have some reluctance to write about how it was. That said, the caring, comfort level and trust were palpable as we moved through the latter part of the Communication and Empathy curriculum. It worked out well to take two weeks on this topic.

We handed out Words Frequently Confused with Emotions.  After some explaining the distinction between “true feelings” and “faux or imposter feelings,” we asked, “can you pick one of the words to focus on that describes a situation you find yourself in from the first row” (abandoned, abused etc.)? They were asked to use it in a sentence touching also on the need that was not met (nurturing, connection, belonging etc).

It was hard work, but they dug in giving the exercise their full attention. The willingness to work with the NVC model and get there (to the true feeling and needs) was more than we might have hoped for. They really got into it, struggling, open, seeing distinctions, vulnerable, and trusting. It felt like the entire room was in sync and we were a caring unit, a force as a group. We’d become a “community with purpose” to borrow from the Needs Inventory. The group dynamic was about mattering and being seen, heard and known. On the one hand it was just an ordinary coming together, being on the same page, on the other hand it was touching, beautiful and profound.  

We ended with going quickly through the Habitual Responses Exercise which was humorous, but what stood out was how quickly they got it. No need to discuss or process, quicker I dare say, than some really dynamic people I know on the outside.

With gratitude, Trisha

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