Phases of the Moon, the newsletter of the Maine NVC Network
Issue Eleven: Making Requests, Part 3

Our newsletter appears once a month around the time of the new moon. Our purpose is to contribute to the NVC learning of people who have taken at least an NVC Level 1 workshop, and help us stay connected as we endeavor to deepen a culture of peace within ourselves, our families and the world. We believe a Level 1 offers so many new ways of thinking that additional support for learning and integration could be helpful.

We endeavor to make each edition informative, connecting, inspiring and fun. Please let us know how the newsletter might contribute to your NVC well-being.

Next month will be the twelfth issue of our newsletter, completing our first year of offering this teaching and connecting tool to our community. The newsletter team hopes that our efforts have contributed to your NVC growth and learning and community. Please let us know what topics you would enjoy reading about during our second year.

The theme for this issue is MAKING REQUESTS. This theme is presented in three parts. This month’s feature will focus on the difference between a REQUEST and a DEMAND. The theme began in September by focusing on CONNECTING REQUESTS, and continued last month last month with a focus on ACTION REQUESTS.


Is This A Request or A Demand?

by Peggy Smith, CNVC certified NVC trainer

In September's newsletter we began an exploration of requests - NVC style. That issue was on the NVC concept of a connecting request. In October we moved on to action requests. This month I want to explore the key distinction between an NVC Request and a demand.

The Adventure is to value your own needs enough to let others know what would enrich your life and to value the integrity, free will, and equality of others enough to make a request and not a demand.
- Bonnie Fraser, Connection: A Self-Care Approach to Conflict Management, p.52

I used to think that if I asked for something with "please" or "I would really appreciate" or even "Are you willing" attached to it – then it was a request. Through working with NVC I came to realize that it's not how "nicely" I ask, but how I react if I hear a "No" that distinguishes a request from a demand.

We have been acculturated to think that asking with a soft and inviting voice is an important element of a request. Many of us can make demands with the sweetest voice and softest of facial expressions.

How I monitor if I am making a request or a demand is to inquire inside myself – "How will I handle hearing a ‘No’ to my request?" Will I hold curiosity to what is motivating you to say "No"? Or will I have a reaction that will promote disconnection or other forms of punishment?

Marshall Rosenberg (creator of NVC) points out that if someone complies with our request out of shame, fear, guilt, obligation or duty – then sooner or later we will pay. And the joy of NVC is asking for what we want with an energy of freedom. This freedom is based on knowing that I only want the other person to say yes from a place of freedom to say no. That I hold within me the respond-ability to handle their choice no matter what it is.

I find it very helpful to take time to ask myself (before voicing my request), "if I receive a ‘no’ to my request, how will I react?" I find that if I take time to connect to the fullness/beauty of the needs involved before making my request I am more likely to be open to hearing a "no" with curiosity. If I find that my authentic reaction will probably be blame and disconnection, then I like to get more empathy before speaking, or at least say clearly that I am making a demand.

In my journey toward incorporating requests, there was about a year during which I found myself saying the word "request"; but checking in with myself found that I would likely be triggered by hearing a "no." I made it my practice to restate what I was saying with something like- "I know I just said this is a request, but if you respond with a no I am likely to be upset, so let me just clarify that I am aware that this is actually a demand. And I’ll do my best to handle a no in a way that honors my true intentions." Remembering that the true intention of an NVC dialogue is connection.

Doing this re-wording often brought humor to myself. It helped me shake up thoughts that were blocking my openness to honoring myself and the other person. It helped me remember that I was practicing freedom. Freedom from my old belief systems and freedom for the other to say yes or no in service to the needs that were resonating within them at that moment.

When we make a request, and receive a "no" in response, have we created the inner balance to remember that every "no" is a "yes" to something within the other person? When my attention is on connection, then I want to know what the other person is saying "yes" to.

At one workshop, a man with a teenage son expressed puzzlement about this concept. The man wanted to understand how his son could be saying "yes" when his responses were so often "no." Three days later I received an email – "NVC is a miracle!"

He explained that he had wanted help moving a heavy piece of furniture. He asked his 14 year-old son to help. His son replied, "No." Usually an argument would arise between them.This time the man remembered the NVC workshop, and he took a moment to entertain that his son was saying "yes" to something. The father decided to be curious. Instead of what he would usually say, he responded, "I wonder why you said no, will you tell me?"

His son answered that he was late for a get-together with his friends, but that he would help move the furniture on Friday. The father was so excited. Instead of the same old disconnecting dialogue that he often experienced with his son, he asked for what would contribute to his life,

  • he received a response that he didn’t care for,
  • he was able to experience curiosity and express that to his son,
  • and he received information that contributed to his experiencing connection with his son.

As in all aspects of NVC it is our intention or attitude that holds the key. A request is based on the attitude of freedom for everyone involved. Blocks to that sense of freedom mean one important thing… more empathy is being called for.

Peggy Smith is co-founder of the Maine NVC Network and founder/principal trainer with Open Communication
Contact Open Communication for a presentation on NVC for your organization or business.

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Suggestions for Practice:

  1. Take a workshop specifically focused on Requests, such as Making Requests: Harvesting the Fruit of Nonviolent Communication, November 20 in Belfast, ME. details

  2. Make the intention that when you say "no" to someone in the next week, you express what needs within you are leading you to say no. You will be practicing connecting a "No" (your own) with the underlying "Yes." When you are able to connect to your own yes’s beneath the no’s, you will have more skill in holding curiosity for the yes’s beneath other people’s no’s.

  3. When you hear a "no" to your request, try asking for more information with the energy of open curiosity. "Are you willing to tell me why you are saying no to what I asked?" Watch your inner reaction with loving compassion to what the other person says. If it is upsetting, make a request of yourself for an empathy session with someone else to nourish the needs that are stimulated within you.



~ Poetry Corner ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

You suppose you are the trouble
But you are the cure
You suppose you are the lock on the door
But you are the key that opens it
It's too bad that you want to be someone else
You don't see your own face, your own beauty
Yet, no face is more beautiful than yours.

- Rumi

image of a young boy standing in shallow ocean water with small ripples, looking down into the water  


Gathering of the Maine NVC Network
January 7, 2011, 10am-2pm
Unitarian Universalist Community Church
69 Winthrop St., Augusta, ME

The purpose of this gathering is to take time to look deeply at what the Maine NVC Network is, and if
the stakeholders would like it to evolve into something else.

Anyone who supports the current Mission & Vision of the Network as written on our website is considered a stakeholder.

ALL are welcome and encouraged to attend.

The request is that attendees do the following things before arriving at the meeting.

  1. Completely read the current Maine NVC Network website, with special attention to the Vision & Mission page.
  2. Be prepared to respond to:
    • Is the Vision & Mission still alive for you? If not, how would you suggest it be changed?
    • How is the Network serving you now?
    • How would you like the Network to serve you in the future?
    • What are you willing to offer to the Network to support the Vision & Mission?
    • Does the current structure serve you?  If not, what structure would you suggest and how would you support that changed structure?

Currently we are a loose group defined as those people who support the Vision & Mission. There is no official membership or list of stakeholders and no bank account. All work is done on a volunteer basis; any expenses are covered by voluntary donations at the time of service.

If you have specific items you want included for discussion that are not connected to the questions above please email them to Peggy.

A moderator will be chosen from those able to attend.

Those who are not able to attend can share their responses to the questions by emailing them to Peggy.

Please RSVP


Crossword Puzzle

This is a fully interactive online puzzle; we aim to have a new one each month, relating to the issue's theme.


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Upcoming Trainings

Dec. 18, Sadhana, South Portland, ME
Day on Empathy in NVC

This day will be theory and experiential exercises practicing the Art of Empathy in NVC led by Gina Cenciose
FMI: websiteemail / 207-772-6898

Jan. 8-9, 2011, Camden, ME
Introduction to NVC & IR Focusing
(combining NVC with Focusing)

This is 2 days to delve and explore NVC self-empathy and working with what is alive in us in deeper and deeper ways, always using NVC as our main guiding principle. Led by Gina Cenciose

Jan. 29-30, 2011, Camden, ME
Introduction to Restorative Circles
(based in NVC)

This is a 2 day introduction to the skills and theory of Dominic Barter's method of restorative circles, which combines Restorative Justice principles with NVC principles. Led by Gina Cenciose
pdf icon FMI

January 15-16, 2011, Arundel, ME
Level 1


The fourth session of the
Maine NVC Integration Program
is now accepting registrations!

Opening My Heart - Opening Communication
April to November 2011
An Intermediate/Advanced NVC Experience
9 Months of Deepening NVC Consciousness
17 Days of Workshop
With Gina Cenciose & Peggy Smith, certified trainers

pdf icon FMI & registration


Book Review:
Lucy Leu, Nonviolent Communication Companion Workbook
Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life

by Kristi Kirkham

A month or so ago, after puzzling about what book I could review that would be pertinent to our current theme for the newsletter, I came up with idea of Lucy Leu’s Nonviolent Communication Companion Workbook. As I looked through the chapter on requests, I realized I needed to look at Marshall Rosenberg’s book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life also.

Each chapter in the workbook includes questions reviewing the content in Marshall’s book. Some of the questions that I couldn’t answer, for example, were: "Why do we sometimes hear a demand when the speaker is actually making a request of us?" or "Why does Marshall mention the Indian custom of saying 'bus?'" This of course led to a very useful review of the whole chapter on requests. In this book review I will describe the different sections of the companion workbook, the pattern that each chapter follows, some of the ways I found the book useful and ways I would have liked it to be different.

Part 1 of the book, titled Using this Workbook, describes three possible audiences for the book and gives suggestions for how to use it. Part 2 covers practicing alone and Part 3 covers practicing together, including suggestions for how to handle conflicts and how to structure an empathy session. Exercises for the Chapter comprise Part 4 of the book; as the heart of the book, I will describe them more in depth in the next paragraph. Finally, there are eight useful appendices including suggestions for further practice, feedback forms, and feelings and needs lists.

Each chapter in Part 4 corresponds with one of the 13 chapters in Marshall’s book. Especially pertinent to our current newsletter theme is Chapter 6: Requesting That Which Would Enrich Life. First off is a reading review with questions such as those I described in the first paragraph. Next comes Individual Practice with eight activities such as

The Leader’s Guide with suggestions for group practice comes next. I found some of the statements offered for translation to NVC quite challenging, for example, "Where do you think you are going in the middle of the school day?"

Luckily for me, the last section includes sample responses to the previous exercises. For example, one participant translated the question about leaving school to, "When I see you walking out of school in the middle of the day, I feel alarmed. I need some understanding here. Are you willing to explain to me where you are headed?"

The Companion Workbook is a time-tested, well-organized guide to NVC practice. I find the structure very clear and useful. I do find myself jarred when I read about unmet needs, as that seems to imply some lack in the exchange. See Newsletter Issue 2 for a thorough discussion of this topic. I hope that this review will encourage you to dust off your copies of these power-packed blue books, check them out from the library, or order them from your local bookstore or Puddledancer Press.


November 20, Waterfall Arts Center, 256 High Street, Belfast, ME
Harvesting the Fruit of Nonviolent Communication: an intermediate NVC workshop
with Peggy Smith, CNVC certified trainer and principal writer for this newsletter

By practicing making requests from a deep awareness of the beauty of the needs alive in any situation, we increase the likelihood that the listener will hear a request and not a demand. We will practice developing self-awareness to discern:

Spend the day honing the fourth step in an NVC dialogue, asking for what you want.

pdf icon details and registration

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