Day 115 – Regaining my voice with NVC

In recovery, I’ve learned that drinking and using weren’t my problems…they were the symptoms. The problems were deeper – more with me, my identity, my confidence. Over the past 10 years or so, I gradually lost my “voice” for a variety of reasons. In relationships, at work, as a member of community…I slowly let others speak for me, or tell me what to say or do. I did great at taking care of others, but didn’t work on myself. I found it harder and harder to know my own needs, let alone seek to have them met or even respected. That took me to a very dark and lonely place.

When I hit bottom, I remember praying that I could get my voice back & regain my identify.  So, this first year or so of recovery is about rediscovering CT.  Or as my friend said last night, becoming the person I was meant to be!  Funny…that exact line is from my “step one” video I made as a gratitude gift for people involved in my “day zero” — the night I called for help and was admitted for treatment.  Susan Boyle’s debut album had a song titled “Who I was born to be.”  In the weeks before I hit bottom, I held onto life sometimes by a weak string…the songs on her album, particularly that one, gave me hope.
              And though I may not
              Know the answers
              I can finally say I am free
              And if the questions
              Led me here, then
              I am who I was born to be

              And so here am I
              Open arms and ready to stand
              I’ve got the world in my hands
              And it feels like my turn to fly
One of my passions in recent years has been learning non-violent, or compassionate, communication.  It’s a way of connecting with one’s self and others through active listening. By being in better touch with one’s needs as well as seeking to understand others’ needs (stated or unstated), there’s a better chance of effectively communicating, making requests and ultimately, experiencing greater joy in relationships. I know I want to deepen my skills in this area, including more training and practice.  It takes conscious work – and much like I’m learning around managing my ego, if I consciously work on staying in contact with others, with my higher power, with my needs and feelings, it’s a lot easier to live in that “space” of compassionate communication.

I got a chance to practice NVC twice tonight.  Some of it has to do with defining boundaries, but the way I’m able to go about expressing those boundaries can be a lot more effective and well received.  By focusing on making requests, and framing the need I have behind the request in a non-judgemental way, I found success!  

The first situation was at dinner.  Someone at our table answered their cell phone and proceeded to have a conversation for several minutes, while the other three of us were trying to continue with our dinner conversation.  I simply asked the individual if they would be willing to continue their conversation away from the table.  I didn’t yell at them. I didn’t pass judgement or label them as rude or inconsiderate.  Part of what NVC tries to teach is that everyone’s needs have equal value — through non-violent (that which makes others defensive!) communication, we try to find ways that everyone’s needs can be met.  So in this case, I assumed they had a reason or a need to have the conversation at that moment.  Wanting to respect that, I offered an alternative that would still allow them to have their conversation while respecting my need to continue mine.   

Did I do it perfectly?  No.  Was it perfectly well received?  Not necessarily.  The individual got a little defensive, and didn’t seem very happy.  Next time, I’d probably loop back with them afterwards and discuss the situation to make sure they felt valued and respected.  But, this isn’t about perfection…it’s about progress.  So, I was glad I “got my voice” and spoke up.

The second situation was a follow-up to a meeting earlier this week.  The individual was repeatedly carrying on side conversations with me during a meeting.  They were typing things on their cell phone and showing me.  They were whispering in my ear.  I politely tried to ignore them without being rude.  I think they sense I was a bit annoyed, so they got in touch with me tonight via text.  

They started off the exchange saying “sorry to distract you at the meeting.”  But, then a bit passive-aggressively, they added “but I think you like it.”  So I took the opportunity to explain what my needs were and make a request for different behavior.   I simply asked, “During meetings, I am there to focus on my recovery as a priority.  I want to be able to fully listen and participate. So I would prefer to not be distracted with side conversations if they are not relevant or are lengthy.  Would you be willing to try that, understanding better why I need that during the meetings?”  Not a demand, a request.  Had he said no to the request, we would hopefully have talked more to find a way to meet both our needs satisfactorily.  But he was understanding and agreed to stop.  He apologized and said he didn’t want me to think poorly of him.  Again, I hadn’t judged him, called him rude or told him he was xxx yyy zzz.  So, it was a great chance to follow-up and reinforce the compassion and the connection I had for him: “I decided to say something to you because I respect you and want to get to know you better.  But this would have been a barrier had it continued, so I wanted to put it on the table so we could deal with it.”  

It’s usually easier for me to type/write/text stuff like this…it comes out a lot better in general without the emotional hesitation!  But the more I practice it verbally like at dinner, or even in texts!, the more I’ll get comfortable with finding the balance and consciousness I’m looking for. And the more I do that, the more I find my voice and speak up for my needs, the stronger I’ll become in my recovery and confidence.  One day at a time…easy does it!  But, progress feels good!

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I see life as full of possibilities and the world full of beautiful people possessing unique and often untapped talents. I’m a learner and connector, seeking ways to leverage the abundance in this world through strong community.

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