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A mother’s choices

This account was written by a very good friend of mine, who has been working hard to integrate NVC into her life, particularly within her family.

A mother’s choices


My teens (M & S) were engaged in an argument, each struggling to hear the other. Voices grew louder and harsh words were bandied about.

S said several times she no longer wanted to continue the discussion; that her brother was not open to hearing what she had to say; that she was uncomfortable with where the conversation was going; that she was not willing to fight about it.

M continued to pursue with his line of reasoning.

Eventually S placed a finger in each ear to block out her brother’s voice, essentially forcing M to ‘give up’.

M said S was trying to force him to agree with her. M got up and left the room while calling S unspeakable names.

Making my choices

First, I remained silent and quietly breathed. Then I imagined Jo sitting on my shoulder and waited for any pearls of wisdom to show themselves.

I turned my thoughts to a previous Webinar session where we talked about flooding and stone-walling; where one person retreats and the other pursues. I realized this was probably what M & S were dealing with.

S had probably been in a state of flooding and, by blocking her ears, was able to protect herself from the strong emotions rising up in her. Her desire for safety and ease drove her to disconnect in an attempt to contain the situation. She may also have been trying to protect M from the strong negative emotions welling up in her. She was wanting a different quality of connection with her brother.

Jo talked about why a person might continue to pursue a discussion when the other is wanting to retreat. That by pursuing they may be hoping for a response, for connection, for understanding and clarity. This helped me consider things from M’s perspective.

I was then able to hold the idea in my mind that both M & S were simply trying to do the best they could with the skills they had.

Jo had also suggested that, in a difficult situation, a hug may be all that is needed. Well that was easy to do. I went to S and opened my arms for a hug. She smiled softly and melted into my arms. I asked if she was O.K. She said she was. I told her I loved her very much and then she smiled some more.

I then turned my attention to M. I felt less confident about how I might approach him. He is a man of few words and I’m trying hard to support him by learning to slow down my delivery and be brief and to the point.

I went up to his bedroom and peered around the door. He was deep in thought, hanging up his clean laundry. We made eye contact. I smiled and gestured for a hug. I was relieved when he responded. I asked if he was O.K. He said yes. He then earnestly shared his frustration that if he’d treated S the way she’d just treated him, she would’ve been furious. I said yes, probably. I went in for another hug and he responded warmly. I said I knew he had done his best and that it was not easy for him.

I then sat on his bed while he continued to hang up his clean laundry in silence. I was determined not to push, rush or force things.

I then tentatively began to reach out and this is sort of how things unfolded:

Me: I just want you to know you can do no wrong in my eyes.

Long silence.

Me: You were really struggling to get heard there.

More silence.

Me: Your sister really looks up to you, although that must be hard for you to believe right now.

Long silence.

Me: She really values your opinion and is very proud of you.

M.: (Immediately turned to look at me) How do you know that?

Me: She’s mentioned it to me a couple of times.

Long silence.

Me: She sees how much research and reading you do, how knowledgeable you’ve become.

More silence.

She feels proud when you go out together socially. She enjoys the relaxed, easy, articulate way you come across.

Long silence.

Me: She loves that you both get along so well and don’t argue so much anymore.

Long silence.

Me: Your affirmation and respect are very important to her.

More silence.

Me: It’s hard for her when she hears your criticism and disapproval.

He utters a deep, low groan and quickly leaves the room without a word.

(I think: bloody hell – I’ve blown it!)

I waited a moment before following him downstairs.

I could just make out a conversation he was having with his sister where I heard him say “I’m really sorry I said those things to you….” and then I could no longer make out the rest of what he was saying. Then I heard them laughing and when I came into the kitchen they were hugging. And me, well I teared up and turned towards my husband’s study to share this happy outcome with him.