financial decisions

NVC – A Tool To Help Make Better Financial Decisions

A skill that is valuable for helping us understand our emotional reactions around money issues is non-violent communication (NVC). It can help us become aware of what’s going on inside of us, understand the difference between needs and requests, and effectively listen and communicate with another person. This can have a huge financial impact, especially for couples, because money is such a common point of conflict in relationships.

First, a disclaimer. I have taken a three-day workshop on NVC, which does not make me an expert. This will be an introduction to and overview of the subject.

The purpose of NVC is to help us connect with ourselves and others in a way to make compassionate giving possible, which is an interesting concept. It is a way of speaking, but not a formula. It offers a language that helps us connect based on feelings and needs, then it has strategies for asking for what we need.

NVC really focuses on two questions that we can ask ourselves. The first is “What’s alive in us?” This is often where you start an IFS session. What’s up? What’s got your attention? Then the second question is “What would make life more wonderful?”

Answering these questions requires us to speak from the heart, not the head. It also requires us to learn the skill of observing without evaluating. There’s a difference between what we observe and our interpretation of what we observe—our evaluation or judgment.

Another important NVC concept is the difference between needs and feelings. We are not responsible for each other’s feelings; we are only responsible for how we respond to another person. Feelings tell us whether our needs are being met. Phrases like I feel abandoned, I feel rejected, I feel betrayed, or I feel disappointed are combinations of feelings and unmet needs.

Human beings really like to give. I think it is tied to our need to matter, to make a difference, to be seen, to be heard. NVC’s unique approach focuses on how you can contribute to my wellbeing, how you can make life more wonderful for me. This may sound like selfishness or manipulation. It is not. The concept is that my focusing on my feelings, my needs, and my request allows you to freely choose whether to give me a gift.

NVC describes several methods of communication that can be destructive and actually increase conflict and misunderstanding. Those include:

  • Judgment, which is often shaming
  • Telling someone to do something
  • Comparing ourselves to others
  • Denying responsibility
  • Communicating our desires as demands
  • Offering rewards

These approaches are manipulative. They contradict a fundamental concept of NVC, which is that we don’t have to do anything. There may be some real consequences for not doing things, but we have a free choice to do what we do. If you ask someone if they would consider doing something, and also tell them they are free to do whatever they wish, this allows them to give you a gift if they choose to. It actually increases the chances of that person doing something for you. This brief overview is far from a comprehensive explanation of non-violent communication. If you are interested in learning more, an online search can lead you to a variety of books, classes, and other resources.

Check out The Financial Therapy Podcast by Rick Kahler concerning this topic.

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