Our Power: To Speak Truth to Power

Message from Myra

[W]e are often afraid to let ourselves be vulnerable fearing this may render us weak, not in control, …taken advantage of, ridiculed or made fun of, etc. …There’s something about a display of emotional authenticity, or “unarmed truth,” that, by and large, inherently commands respect, elicits compassion, connects, and disarms. In fact, such open vulnerability is the primary emotional state in which deep-rooted healing can occur, within an individual, between people, or between members of groups in conflict; thus, it is actually a state of great power. ~ Julie Oxenberg, Tikkun

Dear Friends:

In a recent exchange I had with someone in power, emotional authenticity and Nonviolent Communication (NVC) resulted in connection and trust. I work in community mental health, a demanding field that has become even more demanding in light of funding cuts and increased requirements from the State. For a long time, I have tried to meet the job expectations without paying much attention to my need for breaks during the workday. This has resulted in burnout. I took some time off in February which was helpful but did not fully restore my health. Three weeks ago, I requested a two-week, paid leave of absence for healing and renewal. I spoke to someone very high in the organizational hierarchy. At the beginning of the meeting I was anxious and even tearful. More than anything, I feared that I would not be believed. I care deeply about being seen for my intentions. The meeting was quite tense for the first 40 minutes. Understandably, the corporate officer expressed his concern for the clients and the program in clear and forceful terms, particularly given that I had taken time off not long ago. He asked incisive questions which I answered candidly. Towards the end of the meeting, still forcefully, he asked two questions and the dialog ended as follows:

Me: “You said a lot.” “Do you mind if I take a couple minutes to take it all in?”
(NVC teaching: Take your time before speaking)

Him: “No, that’s fine.”
(NVC students often comment that they can’t take time out in work situations. I have not found this to be true.)

Me: “I hear two themes. You want reassurance that if the job demands have become impossible for me, I will say so honestly. That people need to understand their limits and adjust accordingly. Did I get the first point?”
(NVC teaching: See the humanity of people in power and remember that they are trying to meet their needs, just like you. Do not take things personally. Seek to understand and connect with them.)

Him: “Yes, you got it.”

Me: “And I hear that you need integrity from your employees. You wonder if burnout has also affected my NVC project.” I proceeded to recount the ways in which my health has prevented me from doing workshops recently. In all honesty, I said that I did make a trip to Guadalajara to keep a long-standing commitment. I also said I highly value integrity and I gave him examples of this.
(NVC teaching: Radical honesty).

Him: “Why were you tearful before?”

Me: “Because I was anxious. It’s difficult for me to talk to someone in upper management, someone who has power, about my situation. I feel vulnerable.”
(NVC teaching: Show your heart, fearlessly.)

Him: “Myra, I like your integrity. It’s inspiring. If you need to reduce your hours we will support you. You are a very good clinician. You are on solid ground.”

I was elated. The corporate officer and I saw each other’s humanity and we connected!
(NVC PROMISE FULFILLED ONCE AGAIN: Meeting at the heart, you can find solutions that meet everyone’s needs.)

Restored and renewed after two restful weeks,

Myra

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About Institute for Empowering Communication

Co-founder of the Institute for Empowering Communication
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