How To Do Politics (NVC Style)

Miki Kashtan/Department of Peace Teleconference Training Call Notes

A caller described a scenario is which he quarreled with a co-worker over a political issue. The caller was upset to suddenly find his co-worker passionately disagreeing with him.  Later, when the co-worker apologized, he didn’t seem to know how to  respond.

How to hear an opposing political position with compassion:

The first thing we’re likely to do is to depersonalize the other person, and make them a stand-in for a group.

‘He’s one of those ‘liberals’.”

‘She’s one of those ‘hawks.”

We need to forget about all the other people that agree with that person, and think of this person as a full and rich person, 3-dimensional, just like me.  (Have compassion.)  Remember, another person may have a different opinion from me, but their core values may be no different from the core values that live in me.

Ask yourself, “Can I abstract the core value that they are expressing?” “What is their core value?”  (A core human feeling and need.)

Take a breath.  You are moving from the world of separation, to the world of connection.

As an exercise right now, think of the last political discussion in which you felt some discomfort. Notice the difference it makes in your emotions, to see the needs that you may have in common with your communications partner.

Go back and forth between these two thoughts.

§        when you think of them as a stand-in for what is wrong in the world, and

§        when you think of them as having the same core value as you (safety, understanding).

This opens your heart.

Feeling the connection with your conversational partner:

Pause before seeking to be heard, and really try to connect with what the other person is saying. After they feel heard, then you may choose to hear your truth.

Separate out:

§        hearing the other person,

§        from what you want to say.

Because If I…

§        tell you that I feel connected to you because of our common feeling and need,

§        then, without any pause, tell you what I see as different from your view,

it tends to wipe out the connection.

Take a breath at the end of the connection.  Check if you really got it.  Mirror not only the thought they said, but mirror their emotional state.

Tips:

Do not bring any “buts” into the conversation.

After they say, “Yeah, you get me,” then ask,

“Would you be willing to hear what this topic bring up for me?”

(They may not be willing to hear you.)

Speaking what is true for you:

If they are willing to hear you,

Make an “I statement”.  Instead of saying what should happen in the political arena, take ownership, and say “what I want to see”.  When we say what should happen, we are making it about being right and wrong.

When you say your truth, chunk it up into small bits.  Check out each chunk for the other person’s understanding and reaction. This way, they won’t be as likely to feel overwhelmed with information they want to respond to.

If someone attacks you, judges you, or swears at you:

A caller related their sadness when they met with their Congressman, who said, “Your legislation has no chance in hell of passing.”  The caller was shocked and left the meeting feeling upset, judgmental and resentful. If something like this this happens, you could say:

1)  “I’m a bit shocked.”

2)  “I’m wondering if you might give me a moment to recover.”

Then, work as fast as you can within yourself to release the hold that this feeling of shock has on you:

1.      How do you feel?  Sad?  Frustrated?

2.      What do you imagine is causing the other person to express what they are saying (what human need of theirs is motivating them to say what they are saying). What matters to them?  What is the underlying message that they want you to hear?  What is motivating them to say something that you are interpreting it as an attack?

Then you might be able to ask of them:

“Are you feeling like it would be too difficult to sponsor this legislation, because you have a need to sponsor legislation that has a good shot at passing?”  or “Are you saying, you want me to be realistic about whether or not this legislation could actually pass?”

Our goal in any given lobbying conversation:

If you go into a conversation with your congressperson thinking you are going to change them, you may have a difficult conversation, and may end up feeling very disappointed.

If you:

§        connect, from a vantage of mutual understanding.

§        consider: what can I learn from this?  OK, so you don’t think this is a good idea?  Tell me why.

Keep the focus on what they are feeling and needing. If you can do this for a while, the opportunity to tell them your opinions (without creating more upset) may come up later because they felt that their feelings and needs have been heard by you.

We might have other goals as well, that could be accomplished from the interaction.

§        Connect:  To make a human connect with the person we are lobbying

§        Model Peace:  To experience a small bit of world peace during the conversation, thus modeling the peace we are seeking to realize globally

§        Expand our worldview:  To learn from the person.  Our perspective is parochial and limited if we only are capable of preaching to the choir of fellow believers in the peace movement.

§        Learn to respond to objections:  Perhaps we can learn from Congress members how the legislation might generate objections in Congress.  This way, we can start to learn to answer those objections.

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