NVC Question #6


“I want you to stop drinking.”

This, it seems, is not a clear request that a specific action be taken.

We are, as he says, not in agreement.

He says, the speaker might have said: “I want you to tell me what needs of yours are met by drinking, and to discuss with me other ways of meeting those needs.” 

Um, no. That’s not what the speaker wants. The speaker wants the subject to stop drinking. Period. I can see the argument that technically this is a negative request, and that you don’t do negative requests. and perhaps he could say “I want you to reduce your alcohol intake to zero” or “I want you to stay sober” or some other way of wording the same thing, but not only does this strongly seem to be a request it seems to me like the alternative is a very different request. 


Okay, I’d definitely agree with you that the translation is a pretty different request. And sure, the asker probably really does want the other person to just stop drinking. Here’s a relevant excerpt: 

“Expressing genuine requests also requires an awareness of our objective. If our objective is only to change people and their behavior or to get our way, then NVC is not an appropriate tool. The process is designed for those of us who would like others to change and respond, but only if they choose to do so willingly and compassionately. The objective of NVC is to establish a relationship based on honesty and empathy. When others trust that our primary commitment is to the quality of the relationship, and that we expect this process to fulfill everyone’s needs, then they can trust that our requests are true requests and not camouflaged demands.” 

So I think the issue here is just that asking someone with a drinking problem to stop drinking is quite unlikely to work, and if it does work just like that it’ll probably be because it’s implied somehow that the asker will punish the other person for not doing it. I’m reminded of GTD and I think it’s definitely true that really small requests are more doable for all sorts of reasons. Also, here’s a relevant excerpt from one of the example dialogues in the book: 

Al: Burt I know we’ve talked about this a dozen times, but listen. I’m scared your damned cigarettes are going to kill you! You’re my best friend, and I want you around for as long as I can have you. Please don’t think I’m judging you. I’m not–I’m just really worried. (In the past, when Al had tried to get him to quit, Burt had often accused Al of judging him.) 

Burt: No, I hear your concern. We’ve been friends for a long time… 

Al: (making a request) Would you be willing to quit? 

Given that these conversations are given as examples of proper NVC, it seems that rephrasing it in roughly the way you proposed is kosher.

As a minor point, in the conversation with Al and Burt he doesn’t ever agree to quit smoking. So this is in line with what we seem to agree on. Phrasing it in a positive way is better and trivial to do, and something so big and general is unlikely to work.

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