“It Takes Too Long”- Saving Time with NVC

(Time to read: ~ 3 minutes)

I was presenting to a group of social workers when a participant made a comment that I hear frequently: “We don’t have time for that.”

My understanding is that this person was referring to my suggestion that when someone wants them to do something they are not willing to do, they start by reflecting back what’s important to the other person.

I really appreciate the openness and honesty in this comment – thank you!

This “short answer” response is divided into 2 parts:

  1. 2 concrete things you can do to decrease time spent in these types of conversations
  2. 5 ways the approach I suggested produces more effective solutions faster.

There is also a longer response to this comment, that details the five possible options in this type of situation, and the short- and long-term consequences of each.

2 Ways to Cut Conversation Time

I find the NVC vocabulary of needs is a very concise and effective way of conveying what is important to us and others in any situation. Words like effective, consideration, included, cooperation, and support.

Because they are things that everyone wants – we don’t have to sell people on the value of these things. We just have to help them trust that we can find strategies that will satisfy these in addition to other needs they have in the situation.

So two ways of preparing to reduce the time involved in conflict-resolving conversations are:

  1. Identify ahead of time the needs underlying some of the common strategies used by you and your department. Prepare some concise, standard needs-centred phrases that you can use to help others understand the “good reasons” behind these strategies.
  2. What standard objections do you hear to the strategies that you and your department propose? What needs are behind those objections? Again, you could prepare some standard needs-centred phrases to use to reflect back what you are guessing is important to people who raise these objections.

My experience is that as I’ve done this, and refined my phrases based on the responses I get, is that I’m able to quickly disarm resistance and get the other person and I on the same side, looking for mutually workable solutions.

5 Ways NVC Produces More Effective Strategies Faster…

… and strengthens relationships to make it even easier to solve future problems.

  1. It is the fastest way to reduce resistance.
    In my experience, people will continue to resist what we have to say until they trust that 1) We hear what is important to them, and 2) We want their needs met too. (Note: this does not mean going along with their strategy if it doesn’t work for us.)
  2. It helps people be open to what we have to say.
    While most of us have gotten beyond the childhood strategy of sticking our fingers in our ears and going “Blah Blah Blah Blah” when someone is saying something that we don’t want to hear, I have found that there is an inner psychological equivalent to that. That most people can’t hear others accurately until they have first been heard.In fact, I’ve found that sharing my point of view before the other person believes I’ve heard theirs can even “inoculate” them against my message – they get just enough of it to build up antibodies (arguments) against it.
  3. It helps us both get on the same side
    Nothing wastes more time than two people each repeating their preferred strategy (or the reasons for it) over and over again. When we take the focus off of strategies and put it first on all what is important in the situation (criteria for a mutually effective solution), it takes us out of the conflict zone and into a space where we are talking about things we both want.
  4. It helps avoid “loss of face” for the other person
    By not saying “no” to their solution, and not presenting my solution too early so they say “no” to it – I avoid two potential problems. One, I haven’t “rejected” them / their solution. And two, they don’t have to back down on a position they took earlier in the discussion, before they understood the full situation.  (I call this a “premature” position)
  5. It helps them really take in and accept my point of view
    When I take the conversation out of the either / or of “your strategy vs my strategy”, it makes it easier for them to hear my position. Because, by definition when we are talking about needs, my position is couched in terms of things that are also important to them. We shift away from arguing about “whose strategy?” to “how can we…?” effectively address all the key factors in the situation.

Again, I really appreciate the person who shared the comment that inspired this article – thank you! I hope that this response may support you in getting even more cooperation and support from others you work with.