“Where we learn and grow together”
By Johan Rinman
When I first started to give NVC-based workshops in high schools in Sweden I would often ask my students afterwards: “What did you learn from the workshop?” I kept waiting for someone to say: “I learned how to express my observations, feelings, needs and requests. And I learned how to be more aware of other people’s observations, feelings, needs and requests.” I waited and waited, but I never heard anyone say this. Instead, my students would say things like: “I learned that it is important to be yourself.” or “I learned not to judge other people.” I was really happy to hear this, and yet I was somehow feeling uneasy with these answers. Did my students really “get” NVC?
So, in an attempt to put more effort into my teaching, I decided to try something new. At the beginning of a semester, I gathered my students and said to them: “Alongside our regular curriculum I would like to help you change whatever things you would like to change in your lives. I want to give you the communication skills that will help you make these changes”. My statement seemed to spark an interest in them because they thought long and hard when writing down what they would like to change.
The weeks rolled by as we did role plays, key differentiations, honesty work, empathy exercises. The semester was soon over and it was time to evaluate the work we had been doing together. I handed out the evaluations and I was excited because one of the questions was: “Did you make the changes you set out to achieve?” When the last students had handed in their evaluations, I eagerly began to read their responses. To my dismay, I found that only a fifth of the students answered “Yes” to my critical question. Thoughts of failure accompanied me home. The next day I reluctantly gathered my students to share the results with them. I cleared my throat and said: “I’m sorry, but it looks like I have let you down. Only 20% of you wrote that you have changed what you set out to change in the beginning of the semester”.
I waited for someone to say: “NVC doesn’t work“. But instead, a girl with freckles and hair in a ponytail looked at me and said: “Well, maybe I don’t want the same thing anymore?” Her response took me by surprise. “Can you explain?” I asked. She said: “When we started I wrote that I wanted my father to allow me to come home later during weekends, but now I want us to get along better”. A boy next to her added: “Yeah, me too. I wrote that I wanted to be rich, but you know… I stress too much. I really need to stop stressing so much.” I sat there and listened as my students one after another shared similar stories.
As educators, we can get caught up in trying to help our students “get all the details”, and miss seeing that our students are constantly involved in figuring out “the bigger picture”. I was really taken aback by the stories that my students shared. It began to dawn on me that they were involved in something that goes far beyond observations, feelings, needs and requests. Through our work together, they were shifting their perspectives about life. And during the weeks that followed I began questioning my own goals as well. When I first started giving workshops in high schools I wanted my students to “get” NVC. What I now want is to create an environment where we learn and grow together.
Johan Rinman hatte bereits im Alter von 22 Jahren die Gelegenheit, eine intensive GFK-Ausbildung zu machen und hat sich direkt nach seinem Studium der Erziehungswissenschaften als Trainer selbständig gemacht. Mittlerweile unterstützt er seit über zehn Jahren Menschen aus allen Lebensbereichen bei ihrer Kommunikation, unter anderem Führungskräfte, Gefängnisinsassen, Krankenhauspersonal, Jugendliche und Lehrer.