Feelings that blame?

“I feel abandoned!” a woman says to her partner. I watch her partner as he stiffens slightly and a wash of hurt comes over his face.  I had encouraged the woman to express her feelings. Her face and body expressed feelings of pain and frustration, but her words expressed an evaluation of her partner (you abandoned me) which was easy for him to hear as blame.

In Nonviolent Communication (NVC), we focus our attention on our feelings and needs to create a quality of connection in which a natural giving of the heart arises.

I have heard couples say that they have tried expressing their feelings, but it didn’t work. What I have often discovered in these cases is that feelings weren’t actually expressed. What often can happen is we convey blame, a judgement, or some other word that carries an evaluation of our partner, or a claim about their intention (“you abandoned me” in the example above).

There is a long list of words in our language that pose as feelings, but are actually evaluations. Take a look at the list below. Do you see some words you have used recently?

Behind each of these words are precious feelings and needs. Choose three of the words below that you have used recently. For each word name the feelings and needs that were alive in you with the expression of each.

For instance, in the example above, when the woman said she felt abandoned, we can have a guess at the feelings she has when she thinks she is being abandoned. We might guess she felt pain and frustration because her needs for trust, integrity, and reliability were not met.

discounteddistrusteddisrespecteddumped on
judgedleft outmanipulatedmisunderstood
provokedput downrejectedripped off
smotheredtaken advantage ofthreatened

Notice that all these words say something about the action of someone else. That’s how you can tell these are evaluations rather than feelings.

On the “Resourses” link on this website you can find a printable list of feelings and needs in the NVC  Resourses section.  There is also a list of words often confused with feelings, with some translations into feelings and needs. 

Source: Based on an NVC Gem by LaShelle Lowe-Charde   http://www.wiseheartpdx.org/