Reflections from our international NVC project

13.02.2020

"Communication: Agent of Change" was an international project consisting of two seven-day long trainings courses of Nonviolent communication. It included 28 participants - youth workers, trainers, teachers, social workers and others from the Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and the Netherlands. It was organised by NVC Brno z.s. and it was the first time the organisation hosted such a long-term international project. The first phase took place from 14th to 20th August 2019 and the second phase from 13th to 19th October 2019, located in the north of the country, close to Liberec, in the eco-centre Oldřichov v Hájích. The trainings courses were delivered by Adam Čajka and Katka Martínková.

As we are closing the project, after nearly a year of work, we want to share some reflections of the project outcomes.

The main idea of the project was the following: "We are witnessing polarisation of societies based on constant news and information on conflicts, protests, threats and problems. Young people are growing up into being adults who fear the unknown and radicalise themselves within their own peer groups. We see a need to break this pattern and bring a new approach that fosters compassion and mutual understanding, as the opposite to radicalisation of youth. For this, a new communication language is needed in order to be able to create authentic connections in a space accepting and open to diversity of opinions. We consider the Nonviolent communication (NVC) as a unique approach that is very much needed in all levels of our society and communities, especially among people who work with youth. This is why we are creating this project, with the intention to offer theory, tools and practice that are transferable to the youth workers´ everyday work and will contribute to building peaceful communities that are functioning based on trust and mutual understanding."

Supported by sending organisations located in the participating countries, we selected a diverse group of participants with the intention to provide NVC practice that they would be able to transfer to their personal and professional lives. Meeting twice with the same group enabled us to go deeper in the practice and anchor the learning. The first phase of the project focused on basic principles of NVC - practicing empathy, expression of feelings and needs, 4 steps, etc. In the second phase, we focused on deepening the practice, learning basics of NVC mediation and bridging towards our realities - planning dissemination, shooting videos, etc.

In this article we are sharing testimonials of the participants, videos they created during the project and examples of their follow up activities after the project.


1. REFLECTIONS OF THE PROJECT IMPACT

Two months after the end of the second phase, we asked the participants to look back and evaluate the impact that the training had on their personal and professional lives. We are sharing some of the answers and testimonials:

How would you describe the training in one sentence?

"Eye opening and meaningful" (Mari Luz)

"A good (learning) environment to get in touch with your feelings and needs and to express them, based on concrete exercises under the observation of devoted trainers" (Catalin)

"A journey inside myself" (Luigi)

"I would call it training of time travel skills - arriving at here and now, connecting with what is present in myself, raising my awareness in communication and keeping my mind clear of judgments, evaluations, labels, blaming, etc., so that I take responsibility for myself" (Nikola)

"Intense training with great learning opportunities facilitated by excellent trainers" (Eva)

"A great opportunity to learn, practice and integrate the powerful tool of NVC" (Ruth)

"Triggered thoughts about approaching my self and others, ready to actively listen." (Monica)

What has been the most useful learning from the project for your personal life? How?

"There is an insight that I converted into a visualization that I use quite often. It is about two roads in front of me. First one is where I can choose to blame myself/others, where I am afraid of being vulnerable and expressing myself, then I make decisions out of that fear which leads me to disconnection with myself/others. The second one is where I empathize first with myself and then with others, where I give self-empathy, understanding and acceptance to myself, which connects and grounds me and leads me to the direction of pure presence and connection. Keeping that in mind supports me to choose the second path and connect more with myself." (Nikola)

"The learning from the project was that I can find the feelings and needs laying under the surface, and not always make proposals. I understand and identify when they need to share something, I am getting myself ready to listen and accept whatever is there. I give space, do not interrupt, make clarification questions, clearly ask about their needs and feelings and together we give them name, because they tend to be blurry and known in the subconscious so we bring them to the surface." (Monica)

"Using the dyad. Now I am having dyad 4-5 times a week. It supports me as I am having regular self-reflection and the connection with people I am having a dyad regularly getting stronger." (Éva)

"Seeing over and over again the huge power of listening and trying to understand what the other person is actually saying and going through. It brings me closer to the other person, and the other person feels much more comfortable with me." (Ruth)

"Understanding that all negative emotions are expressions of certain unmet needs. It helps me to solve conflict more often." (Jura)

"That it´s important to implement the NVC not directly as a method (by introducing it not in a way: "I came from this project where we were learning this and that and I'd like to share it with you and implement it with you"), but more naturally in a kind of "hidden" way. Because in my experience people were irritated when I tried it the first way." (Filip)

"Being able to see other people´s needs, when someone does something that disturbs me I can stop and see that it´s based in their needs." (Cristina)

What has been the most useful learning from the project for your professional life? How?

"I work as a intercultural mediator so I have to work with a lot of people. Now I think that I am more aware about the needs and feelings of those people and it helps me to connect with them in a better way." (Edu)

"That I really enjoy empathic coaching and mediation and I would like to use this in my professional life. I realised I prefer 1-on-1 or 1-on-2 sessions, rather than facilitating a group process, like I did in the follow-up activity of organising a dyad. When I focus on the process of coaching or mediation, I get completely absorbed in the process and forget everything around me." (Minke)

"How to use the NVC with groups of youth people, because it was the reason for which I took part in the project." (Silvia)

"I really look at my colleagues as a "floating iceberg" with needs and feelings underneath the surface." (Šárka)

"Concerning my professional life my new mediation skills have been of great help. I have everyday situations when I practice coming out of a conflict in a non violent way. The learning I am working on is of giving myself empathy in order to be whole and compassionate" (Vania)

What is the most important thing that you have learnt about yourself?

"If I am disconnected with my feelings and needs, I am unable to be present and to enjoy life. Self empathy is playing a very important role in my well being." (Catalin)

"I learned that I am someone that wants to go to the core of things. Being intuitive i can read between the lines of what is being said. But my attitude of 'making people understand' was quite aggressive in me directing to what I perceive the feelings and needs of the other person to be. It's not for me to decide. By empathizing and respecting someone's feeling and needs you can support someone in making the best decision for themselves. People often don't need direction or advice. They know what to do for themselves if they have clarity." (Gerard)

"That giving self empathy is a key to seeing the world as wonderful and NVC is an art of self improvement and believing in the good." (Vania)

"Having chance to listen to my thoughts and feelings from others in a very specific way - learning about the way I tend to express myself." (Eva)

2. DISSEMINATION ACTIVITIES

With the project, we aimed not only on teaching NVC to the participants but also encouraging them to implement what they had learnt in their work and to share it further.

During the second phase of the project, the participants got a task to create short videos in which they creatively introduced some element of NVC. They only got one day to do so, with the intention to stimulate the real team work environment and create an opportunity to not solely make a video but also apply NVC in their cooperation, which might have been stressful and challenging. The idea wasn't to create a professional video, but to use what they had, with the given timeframe.

NVC principles and participants´ videos:

Follow up activities:

After the training, participants implemented various activities within their work spaces and organisations. We find it interesting to see different ways of using the project outcomes! Here are some examples:

Bulgaria

Romania

  • Three 3hrs workshops on basics of NVC for international European Solidarity Corps volunteers

Netherlands

  • Dyad practice during well-being week for students

  • Dyad sessions

Czech Republic

  • workshop on self-empathy, honest self-expression, empathy, feelings and needs for volunteers and mentors working with socially excluded Roma children and youth in Museum of Romani culture, https://www.facebook.com/events/776010046173420/

  • session on NVC as part of international training on communication for university employees

Spain

Italy

Article compiled by Katka Martínková and Adam Čajka

The project was funded by the Erasmus+ programme of European Union