every criticism, judgement, diagnosis, and expression of anger is the tragic expression of an unmet need. – dr. marshall rosenberg
A colleague / girlfriend of mine reached out over the weekend and asked to meet up soon to learn more about SALT practices. I thought I’d share some of what I’ll be sharing with her here, since one of the main intentions of this blog is to share treasures!
SALT practices involve participating in mindfulness modalities and nonviolent communication (NVC). The cool thing about both of these is that they can be done pretty much anywhere and at any time. You just need an intention to be more aware and a willingness to repeatedly try. At the SALT studio, we often said the mantra, “I matter. I care. This is healthcare.” I truly believe that over time and with a committed effort these practices will help to improve well-being.
Mindfulness can look very different to us all. the father of this movement, John Kabat-Zinn, defines it as “paying on attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally.” This can be with our breathing, thinking, eating, exercising, etc.
Through repeated mindfulness practices, we are able to rewire neural pathways which helps us to create new stress responses. Over time we may observe changes – for example perhaps our defensiveness begins to fade as we find new, more effective, ways to handle stress. When we are less reactive and more self-regulated we are apt to communicate and connect in more centered, healthy ways.
Believe it or not, the founder of nonviolent communication, Dr. Marshall Rosenberg (rip), actually had been called to war zones to help deflect conflict using his method – this is how powerful NVC can be! Conflict is inevitable ; it’s in how we handle the conflict that makes all the difference. I explain it as a practice of gaining a new lens and vocabulary for which to understand life experiences. Honestly, it’s the best way for me to try to interpret my own life and this curious world we live in. Living in a more curious state has become my favorite mindset to have – I often say I live in gray, as opposed to black and white, and I love this about myself. Nonviolent communication can help with achieving this.
Nonviolent Communication :
The trickier SALT practice to explain is nonviolent communication. I like to think of NVC as one of life’s best-kept secrets! It seems in my day-to-day interactions, not too many people are familiar with it (though there are plenty of people around the globe who are actively practicing it), yet for me, it’s been a most influential treasure, and is the inspiration for my Feelings Identification + Needs (FIN) Awareness practice. Many of you may be thinking, “What is nonviolent communication? It sounds scary!”
People are often confused or turned off by the term “nonviolent communication,” however I think it makes a lot of sense. If we hurt people with our words (especially when we are triggered and in attack mode), we are indeed being violent. I think hurting others or feeling hurt is far from what we are truly craving, and I strongly believe we are most here for connection – one of the strongest human needs we all have.
Think of NVC like this … Imagine everything you have ever done, are doing, or will do, is an attempt to meet a human need of yours. the same goes for every person, and every person on the planet shares the same human needs – sure we may weigh them differently, but to some degree we all have the same needs, and there are many ways to meet each need.
Then imagine that how you feel, moment-to-moment, encounter-to-encounter, experience-to-experience, over a lifetime, is based on your needs either being met or not. If you are feeling well, then chances are that your needs are being met. If you are not feeling well, then chances are that your needs are not being met.
When you can identify and nonjudgementally observe a situation, and then identify the related feelings you are having, and then identify what needs are either being met or unmet, you can better understand the situation and yourself. You can then communicate (to yourself or others) with more clarity, compassion, and ownership about the situation. This has the ability to transform how we react, act, mend, and tend.
So how do you “practice” NVC? Nonviolent communication involves a 4 part process – 1) make observations ; 2) identify feelings ; 3) identify needs ; and 4) make requests. Thom Bond, author of The Compassion Book and who studied under Rosenberg, encourages taking a lot of time to practice, sometimes even years, simply to understand feelings and needs. I can attest to this, as I’ve been practicing NVC for about 5 years now and I still feel elementary with it at times! Scary honesty and imposter syndrome here for ya!
Back in 2015 when I was in couples therapy with Mike, I was given this handout. At the time I had no idea what it was about or how to apply it, but today I realize how helpful it is. I remember feeling ashamed that Mike knew what it was, as his family practiced NVC, and I didn’t, and this further infuriated me. I thought he and the therapist were ganging up on me! in the next session I used the steps to share just that – ha! Needless to say, we didn’t last long with that therapist and the relationship ended shortly thereafter, but the best outcome was she connected me to my current therapist and now I practice this all the time!
A lot can happen from this process. you can begin to connect dots about your life experiences and notice trends. You may recognize people, places, and things with a new lens as mentioned earlier. Perhaps you’ll find a new appreciation when you realize what value and joy someone or something brings to your life. Contrarily, you may also realize that there may be people or things in your life that may require some distance because you realize they no longer meet your needs. From all of these revelations, you can yield greater consciousness, communication, and connection – and a whole heck of a lot of self-awareness!