Phases of the Moon, the newsletter of the Maine NVC Network
Volume Four, Issue Ten: Honoring Agreements

Our newsletter appears once a month around the time of the full 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.


Honoring Agreements

by newsletter team leader Peggy Smith, CNVC certified NVC trainer

"Once I commit to a customer I always complete the job – no matter how overbooked I am – no matter how many hours a day I have to work to get it done. I can get so exhausted and angry with myself. Then I usually start drinking too much." – NVC Level 1 participant

Why do we commit to so many things that we loose connection with the needs of ease, fun/play and rest? Are we reacting to a core belief that our value lies in what we do? Are we simply conforming to the norms of our culture? Or are we clear that we are contributing to our visions and dreams for the world?

Once we do commit to something how can we change our minds without negating the need of honoring agreements? I have worked with this question for several years.

I started to look at what I did when I had made a commitment and then changed my mind. I began to notice that I would sometimes lie about my reasons for changing the agreement – so that the reasoning seemed "beyond my control." I would say things like, "My car won’t start," or, "My family member is sick," when the truth was that I was tired or I wanted to spend time in my garden instead.

Using an NVC lens to consider my behavior, I found that underneath this habit of telling lies lay a desire to be liked, for acceptance and belonging. A problem arose. When I made one of these untruthful statements my energy was not clear and connecting. Often the other person picked up on this lack of clarity, creating confusion and muddiness between us. Ironically, this decreased my sense of belonging. Marshall Rosenberg might call this a tragic attempt to meet a beautiful need.

Then I started thinking about decisions from a needs-based perspective. Now, if I begin to feel uncomfortable with a commitment for any reason, I use an NVC based inquiry.

  1. What needs might I have been contributing to by saying "yes" to a commitment?
  2. What needs might the other person (persons or group) have been addressing when they asked me for the commitment?
  3. What needs might I be neglecting if I stick with the commitment?
  4. Then I take time to consider which strategy would serve life in the best way at that time: to stick with the original agreement or to change it.
  5. If I decide to change it, then I remember how important integrity is to me. The strategy I have come to enjoy the most is transparency.

This involves being transparent with myself – getting clear what needs are most calling for my attention, then contacting the other person as soon as possible and telling them clearly about the change, clearly stating the needs involved. Then I ask how they are affected by my change. Then, it is important to me to listen from calm presence, not hearing the other person’s statements, no matter how they are said, as blame.

Hearing their reaction may lead me to reconsider and stick with the original commitment. Or I can know that I did the best I could to take care of each of us in the situation. Or a third idea may arise from our honest expression to each other. The more I practice this, the more creativity seems to emerge in decisions.

Here are some elements that I appreciate from others, and therefore try to use as much as possible myself.

  1. Before saying "yes" to someone’s request, I look carefully within myself to assess what % of me wants to say "yes" and what % wants to say "no."
  2. If I have made a commitment and decide to change it, I tell the other person as soon as possible.
  3. I tell my reasons, honestly. As an NVC practitioner I know that behind every "no" there is a "yes" to some need(s). When I say "no," I make every effort to express the needs that I’m saying "yes" to. And when I hear a "no" from someone else, I make every effort to hear the "yes" that is being expressed.
  4. I ask how the other person is affected, and I listen.
  5. I seek complete communication, until both parties have a clear sense of being heard and understood.

The relationship is what is most important to me. I have come to realize that when other people change their minds about their commitments, and then don’t choose to have this level of communication about their decision – that is most painful for me. Of course we won’t always get what we want. We CAN get connection through honest dialogue. To me, this is a valuable way to nurture the beautiful needs of honoring agreements, integrity and belonging.

Further Practice

You may want to use Feelings and Needs Cards to help you with this exercise. These can be downloaded for free here.

  1. Re-do #1: Clear some time (20 minutes perhaps) for self-reflection. Remember a time that you made a commitment to do something and later regretted the commitment.
    • Observation: What was the commitment?
    • Judgments: What thoughts arose from this commitment? thoughts about yourself; thoughts about other people involved; thoughts about the task/commitment.
    • Repeat each judgment, this time starting with the phrase, "I’m telling myself . . . "
    • Bring the commitment back to mind. When you think about doing the commitment, what feelings come up? What needs are underneath these feelings? What needs were supported by doing it? What needs seem neglected by doing it?
    • Brainstorm how you might have changed the commitment with care and consideration.
  2. Re-do #2: Think of a time that someone "broke" an agreement with you.
    • Observation: What was the commitment? How did it get changed?
    • Judgments: What thoughts arose from this change? thoughts about yourself; thoughts about other people involved; thoughts about the task/commitment.
    • Repeat each judgment, this time starting with the phrase, "I’m telling myself . . . "
    • Bring the situation back to mind. When you think about what happened, what feelings come up? What needs are underneath these feelings?
    • Brainstorm how you would have preferred the person to act.
    • Make a request of yourself to use your preferred strategies the next time you are changing an agreement.

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Upcoming Trainings

Trainings listed here are in the Maine region. If you wish to list an event, please follow our guidelines for submission. Please note that both certified and non–certified trainers, (who are willing to follow certain requirements of the Center for Nonviolent Communication), may be leading the posted trainings. Listing here does not imply endorsement by the Maine NVC Network of the trainer or the event.

Dec. 7-8, Unity, ME
Level 1: From Conflict to Connection: the Fundamentals of NVC

Fundraiser for MOFGA El-Salvador Sistering Committee
and two environmental projects in the West Bank, Palestine
Taught by Peggy Smith / pdf icon details and registration


February 21-23, 2014, Nobleboro, ME
Bringing Mindful Speech To Life

Third annual weekend of mindfulness with Peggy Smith and Theodate Lawlor,
Members of Thich Nhat Hanh's Tiep Hien Order
pdf icon details


March 22-23, 2014, Belfast, ME
From Conflict to Connection: the basics of Nonviolent Communication

A fundraiser for WERU Community Radio
Taught by Peggy Smith / pdf icon details and registration



Invitation to
Monthly Empathy Circle

First Friday of each month, 10am-1pm
at Open Communication office
243 High Street, Belfast, ME
You are welcome to come when you can. If this is your first time coming, please contact Linda beforehand:
Phone 322-2122 / email

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The group is moderated and is only used for announcements of regional workshops and other Maine NVC Network events. Inclusion in list serve announcements does not imply endorsement by the Network.


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Call for Volunteers

The health of the Network depends on the joyful efforts of all who yearn to bring nonviolent consciousness to our region.
To learn more, email our volunteer coordinator.



Paid Announcements

Clarity Services, LLC
Now Accepting Clients

Helping groups of people think together collaboratively and effectively
Free 30 minute initial consultation:
1-877-833-1372 / email


Open Communication

welcomes individuals and couples who want NVC-based support to meet with them at their new office in Belfast, ME
Please contact Peggy:
207-789-5299 / email


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