NVC and Advice

“When I confront a human being as my Thou and speak the basic word I-Thou to him, then…he is no longer He or She, a dot in the world grid of space and time, nor a condition to be experienced and described, a loose bundle of named qualities. Neighborless and seamless, he is Thou and fills the firmament. Not as if there were nothing but he; but everything else lives in his light.” ~ Martin Buber

I hope you are enjoying the long weekend. Today, I’m going to take Karime, my 9 year-old godchild, to a petting zoo. Fun!

I’d like to tell you a story. I was talking to a coworker whom I will name Edgar this week. Here’s part of the dialog:
Myra: Edgar, remember we have the Environmental Care Team meeting tomorrow at noon. Are you still going to be able to join us?
Edgar: No. I scheduled an intake at 11 and it’ll probably go till 12:30.
Myra: Oh, bummer. I’m concerned about our team coalescing and its effectiveness. Do you think you might be able to save the dates in the future? We always meet during lunch time.
Edgar: I don’t think so. I’m working straight through my lunch hour now. I’m not taking time for lunch.
Myra: Oh, my! That’s a recipe for burnout…
Edgar: You don’t need to say that.

I expressed regret. I understood what Edgar meant. I gave him unsolicited, indirect advice. I’m guessing that in this exchange he needed equality. He wanted me to recognize that he, too, is an adult, and to trust that he has the competence and the wisdom to lead his life – just as I would want him to trust that I have competence and wisdom to lead my life. I’m guessing that he also wanted respect for his autonomy. That even if the good reasons for skipping lunch and not getting a break were not apparent to me, and even if I was concerned about his health and well being, he wanted me to honor his choices. That if I wanted to contribute to him, unequivocal respect for his autonomy
would be a much greater gift than advice.

This is not to say that I don’t believe in expressing concern or making
suggestions when these are present for me. But if I want to live in harmony with my values, I would need to do this in the context ofconnection. And I would want to ask Edgar, or Peter, my husband, or Susan, my client, if they are willing to hear a suggestion. And I would need to be prepared to hear No and still maintain connection. How very difficult this is for me, at times.

The reason I’m telling you this story is because I had a similar exchange with you recently. In my last two posts, I highlighted some words because I thought they could be useful to you. For instance, I bolded: “I think the path to transformation of consciousness entails [among other things] hearing the same essential truths in different ways over and over again.” This might be true, except I meant it as advice. So, I regret the way I said this for the reasons I expressed above. I don’t mind sharing with you what has been helpful to me, so long as I am aware that this might or might not be useful to you, and so long as I mean it as sharing as opposed to advice. Please know that I am peaceful writing this. Self-vigilance, processing my actions when I’m left with a gnawing feeling, is an ongoing practice of mine. I don’t want you to worry about me.


About Institute for Empowering Communication

Co-founder of the Institute for Empowering Communication
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