What I heard you say…

– You said that you had understood but you never told us WHAT you had understood!

Saying this, Corine, one of the friends I consider being among the closest to me, gave me a real Aha-moment this last summer.

I felt both exhilarated and abashed. Since a few years already, I had kept talking about how much I appreciate the question which I’ve learned through NVC[1]: “Could you tell me what you heard me say?” And here I was, not having realized myself, the importance of rephrasing what I had heard the other persons expressing.

We had been playing Boule with her oldest daughter’s grandparents and Corine had seen and heard my frustration about the frequent instructions on how to throw the ball. I HAD understood! And to my very best ability, I had as well been trying to throw the ball according to the instructions. The annoying result of my efforts was however that the ball kept slipping out of my hand just about a second before the planned launch.

That day, on the lane of Boule, I chose, just like many previous occasions, to react on what I heard by defending and explaining myself:

– Yes, I have understood but am just trying to find my way of how to throw the ball… Maybe it is my muscles being too week to keep the ball… And because… (etc)

The choice of rephrasing what I had heard them say might have sounded like this:

– Do you mean it is when holding the hand in this very angle and my arm stretched here at the length of the shoulder that it would be the best moment to throw the ball?

Besides expressing what I had understood from the three others, it is also possible that my rephrasing would have helped me incorporate my new knowhow in Boule.

Another situation:
– I understand exactly how you feel!

This is something I have said and heard others say too, sometimes followed by a story of one’s own life, in the purpose to help, to give something to the other person that could help in their situation.

What happens when I tell about a similar situation from my own life is that the focus moves from the other to me and most probably, he or she, will not find any guidance in my story. When happening to me, I have by turns felt frustrated, sad and lonely.

What has really helped me is to be heard. While expressing what concerns me, I more easily find my own solutions. To experience another person’s full attention and to hear my story being described by his/her words helps me to see from a different view and to experience participation. To be heard also helps me to feel less alone even though I am the owner of the problem.

I am now trying to learn to rephrase what I hear the other person say instead of suggesting my own solutions. If I want to get more help from the communication process of NVC, I also ask for the other person’s feelings, needs and requests in the specific situation he or her is experiencing.

Most of all, I am trying to really be there, fully present with the person expressing him – or herself.

[1] Read about Nonviolent communication:




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