Feelings in the map.

Following on from: Concrete instructions

One of the underlying concepts of NVC (Non Judgemental communication) is to speak from your own perspective.  There is a very powerful instance of being able to ask for clarifications.  “I am confused” instead of “you said something confusing”.  (I previously wrote about locating the disagreement in an argument in: a model of arguments which aligns very well to this part of NVC).

While it may be true from a personal subjective experience that to me it seems like you said something confusing and in my subjective experience the world suddenly became confusing.  In fact – it would be unreasonable to propose that the external world (territory) is where the confusion lies. This is because the external world is valid and real independent on your own observer state of the world. If you ceased to exist, the defined “confusing” nature of the world would also cease to exist. That confusion rests in your own subjective map, not in the real objective existence of the world.

Identifying the confusion is a very early step.  A step independent of resolving the confusion.  Just for starters – identify, “I am confused”.  Then think about the very nature of being confused and what it is to be confused.

This also applies to other feelings.  Some examples include:

  • apprehensive
  • suspicious
  • frustrated
  • irritated
  • repulsed
  • torn
  • numb
  • lonely
  • exhausted

Acknowledging the feelings and giving them the respect they deserve is a step in the right direction.

Sometimes we need to transmit a feeling in order to impart the experience that we are having.  Not just the concrete instruction, but also the feelings that arose.  Independent of what comes next, and independent of the implications (and holding off from weaponising this particular attempt to communicate).  We want to be able to transmit:

  1. Concretely what happened
  2. How we are feeling in this instance

This goes for welcome and unwelcome experiences and feelings.  Some examples include:

(in the sneaky and not concrete form without being clear of the feeling) Whenever you do things for me I feel like the greatest person in the world!

(and in the concrete and specific form that speaks only of yourself) When I got this cookie I felt appreciative.


These two concepts could have been inspired by the same prior experience but for the second one I transmit exactly how to evoke the same feeling in the future (short of extra context that I will explain in another post).

When I show up at a meeting late I feel disappointed in myself.

When I get to a meeting and have to wait for it to start I feel disappointed.

Notice how that is a terrible place to stop?  How it leaves so much unsaid.  How it bleeds feelings all over the place but does nothing about them.  If you know people like this you might have one of three reactions:

  1. Why are you telling me this?  Is it my problem?  I don’t know what to do about this.
  2. I want to avoid this person because apparently their feelings are my responsibility and I don’t know that I agreed to make that my problem
  3. Oh let me help you with those feelings!

The trouble with 3 is that there is a certain type of person who leaks feelings often and can become a naturally draining person.  It’s not their fault!  But there is a solution!  See next post.

Generic human Needs

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