Practice group exercises

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Greetings fellow NVC addicts, fanatics and trainers!

I host a weekly NVC practice group at my house these days, and at it I've come upon the idea of a strategy that I hope would meet needs for abundance of possibilities and choice. Sound cool? Well, here's the situation...

Pretty much every week we begin with an initial moment of silence and then a go-around check-in. Then I ask everyone - what do ya'll want to DO with the rest of the time here? That usually stops people dead in their tracks.

Most people who attend my group are stumbling little baby giraffes, people who periodically have their herbivorous giraffe teeth suddenly transmogrify into jackal carnivorous teeth - and then the blood-letting ensues. They often have a sense as to how they are feeling, and have a dim sense as to what they are needing, but damned if they know what clear and doable requests they can make in hopes of making productive (relevant, aware, needs-meeting) use of our time together.

Upon reflection on all of this, and conversation with those in the group, I've come to understand that most really do not know WHAT different possibilities exist out there to make use of NVC practice group time. Sure, we all know and love the standard NVC practice group fare - empathy, role-plays, and Lucy Leu's workbook. But - what ELSE is out there in the realm of possibilities - NVC-wise? Acacia leaves are cool and all, but I have a sense that other greenery exists out there to be consumed.

I then thought - I'd like to make a list of all this. As far as I know, no comprehensive list exists out there of all of the different possibilities of what one can do with NVC practice group time. Here is what I know of so far:

  • following Lucy Leu's workbook - (ISBN 1892005042)
  • reeeeeaaaaalllllllyyyyy long check-in and beginning period, where much discussion, confusion, elaboration, negotiation and empathy takes place
  • Mediation - Mediate between angry people, and have them all turn into giraffes. Or just have one of them turn into a giraffe. Or perhaps just everybody continues to stay angry.
  • Translating NVC-speak into normal language, while still keeping an eye out for OFNR
  • "intentional conversation", that is, a collective group "giraffe

dance" where people attempt to talk with each-other, while being mindful of OFNR. In practice, this is often hard as fuck, but it can potentially be very satisfying

  • the NVC dance floor game exercise practice thing (I watch my inner

jackals come out and play as I type this)

  • Singing/playing Marshall's songs. (See my previous reaction)
  • NVC learned and skilled people lecturing others about various things


  • collectively going through various worksheets that different NVC

trainers and organizations have made. (Much of these exist out there, and if you have any that you have found to be particularly helpful for you, I would appreciate it if you e-mailed me copies of them as file attachments.)

  • watching different NVC videos or listening to NVC audio recordings


  • have each person write down a comprehensive inventory of all the

different thoughts and concerns racing through their minds at the moment, and then write down the different feelings and needs associated with each thought and concern. I've found this to be particularly useful for dealing with overwhelm and anxiety.

  • have NVC learned and skilled people give themself self-empathy out loud and in front of the group. This can have a kind of born-again speaking-in-tongues rapture-esque quality to it, but I believe that real learning can come from that as well.
  • coaching people in NVC as they stumble their way through giving

another person empathy, or in using NVC in general

  • questions and answers

Does anyone else here know of other potential NVC uses of NVC practice group time, and would care to share them with me? I would much appreciate hearing about these, 'cause I have an idea that such would help me get more of an idea as to different things that *can* happen, and I like the feeling that comes with that.

In liberation,


Judy wrote:

Love the list, (I)An-ok Ta Chai. It is going in my keepers file. Are you also looking for particular exercises to add to the list? Such as collecting slips with all the difficult things to hear from the group participants and either redistributing them to pairs to work on hearing or posting them for all to choose from and then working in pairs. Judy Nonmik

Here's a similar -- or at least related -- one:

Collect slips of Things-hard-or-challenging to respond to that are real to those participants. Pick out one that you consider meaty. Read it to the group, without revealing who wrote it. Ask them each to write down VERY VERY what they consider a life-serving/connecting/whatever response they might propose they themselves might want to make in an attempt to simulate matters serving themselves and the other person in response to those words and to hand them in without their names one them.

Then ask the group to try to imagine THEY had spoke the original hard to hear thing. Then say "I'm going now to read to you some things the other person might say to you in response to what YOU said in this imaginary situation. If you feel that what I read makes you feel more connected to or more understanding of or more sympathetic to the other person, or evokes any motivation in you to trust you've been understood, raise your hand.

That way the group gets to see what sort of responses to hard to hear things "work" and which don't.

Possibly the group can discuss which turned them off and why(how they "heard" it) and which worked. Alex Censor

Another role play that I learned from Robert Gonzales is to pair up and do non-empathy (giving advice, sympathy, analyzing, etc.) for 5 min. each with each other, and then actually empathizing with each other for 10 min. each. Participants in this exercise have told me it really raised their awareness of how much time they spent doing non-empathy outside of practice group. They could also feel how disconnected they felt when they did the non-empathy. Margarita Mac

The exercise: I call it "The day of needs" (or something like that)

The intention of this exercise is 1. to bring some fun and relaxed learning 2. to make people realize that the motivation of our actions is grounded in our needs. With everything we are doing we try to fulfill a need.

Let the group imagine, that you all represent ONE person, going through a day.

Every person says in turn one thing that she/he does in the day. You follow the time of the day.

Example: I begin: "It is 6 am and I get up, going to the toilette and fulfilling my need for evacuation."

Next person: "Oh, then I enter the kitchen and am starting to make a coffee, because... for me it´s a kind of ritual, starting the day with a coffee. So I fulfill my need for celebration and ritual."

Next person: " Now I go to the bathroom. I have an extensive shower, brush my teeth and do this kind of body care, because...well, I have a need for physical wellbeing?

and so on. Each person contributes an activity during the day.

You can do this game with small and large groups, with beginners and advanced.

Isabell Peters from cold and sunny North Germany

1. Jackalaplooza Practice responding to these situations: - blame (especially when in agreement with some of the content) - victim language - jackal humor - praise - responding when triggered (giving self emergency empathy)

2. Don't Diss the Jackal Observe and and translate. Practice screaming and BS in giraffe. (Some young g's think giraffe has to be 'nice', this practice theme encourages expressing full range of feeling.)

3. JackalJam: people collect jackal stuff from the culture (song lyrics, ads, movie dialog) and bring it in. What is the need behind these?

All of these deal with "jackal"- might be because young giraffes so easily slide into 'jackal is bad/wrong'.

Will appreciate any comments and seeing others' contributions. - Kathleen Conway

OFNR Says Taken from the children's game, Simon Says.

Participants stand at the end of a room and OFNR reads a sentence. The participants decide if they think the sentence is a giraffe communication; i.e. clear Observation, Feeling, Need or Request. If they decide it is, they take one step forward. If not they stand stationary. Then the discussion. If the consensus is "no, it isn't", then anyone who has taken a step has to return to the beginning. First person to reach OFNR celebrates.

I imagine starting simply and then increasing the complexity of the sentences as the game progresses.


P.S. I started with the desire to have more physical movement in exercises. Then I wondered what childhood games had activity. Then how to make it relevant to NVC. Hide and Seek Giraffes? Haven't figured that one out yet. I would enjoy your creative contributions. Jim Hussey

Jim, I appreciate your contribution of OFNR Says (support) and want to share my experience of using it last night in my Intermediate NVC class and also to get further clarification from you. In regard to the sentence that OFNR reads, do you instruct participants to make up one of their own? I provided "hard to hear" statements like, "You never listen to me" and instructed the group to either translate the statement into OFNR or not use the card and make up their own OFNR from a personal situation. As we went along with the game we varied the stepping forward by taking one component at a time - i.e. OFNR reads the whole OFNR and then breaks it into four parts, again reading only the observation and the group either steps forward or "discusses" it, then the feeling, etc. At the end of the agreed upon OFNR we all did a "victory dance" to celebrate. My group was quite alive with the discussion part and wanted to contribute to figuring out needs that seemed "to fit" and/or street language. Although this met needs for learning and exploring, it did not meet needs for movement, which some of us thought was a main piece of the game. Any suggestions or further clarity of how you play it differently?

SECONDLY: I have been meaning to offer my idea of "Putting it Together Game" which has generated a lot of excitement and celebration in the groups I have offered it. It actually has two parts:

Part One (this game was created by Miki and Inbal Kashtan): Materials are: Six categories printed on 81/2 by 11 cards - 1 Observation, 2 Feeling, 3 Need, 4 Request, 5 Demand or Non-doable Request, 6 Judgment, Thought or Evaluation. 60 cards with examples of ten each of the 6 categories (one on each of the cards, i.e. 10 observation cards, 10 feeling cards, etc.). Depending upon the number of players - I've had over 100- you can make sets of the 60 cards. (Each set can be the same or can be different.)

The players get into groups of 4 or 5 people. Each group receives a set of 60 cards. The Category cards are posted on the walls around the room. The groups are instructed to have one person read a card and the group as a whole decides which category fits the statement. The cards are placed in six piles in the middle of the group and when the 60 cards have been read, the individual cards get posted under the category card. The group is instructed that if they are not in agreement about a particular statement on one of the cards, after a couple of expressions of non-agreement, it is requested that they put the card in a seventh pile entitled "Don't Know" pile. Further clarity is that if they are struggling with it, the understanding about it could probably benefit the group as a whole and we will go over those cards first when all the groups have completed their cards. Note: 60 is an arbitrary number and can be minimized or expanded depending upon your time frame.

Part Two: If you only have one trainer, you can do this in whole group or divide up with a trainer in each group. You can also use a group of volunteers to sit in the middle and have the remainder of the participants watch as in a Fish Bowl.Take the OFNR cards from the group of 60 (or you can make up new ones) and put them in individual envelopes - first omitting 5 feelings and 5 needs. Give one envelope to four different people sitting next to each other in a circle of all the folks who are playing. Person holding Observation envelope picks a card at random and reads it out loud, person holding Feeling envelope, picks a card randomly and reads out loud, etc. After an OFNR has been read as a complete sentence (it seems to take a few practices to get a rythym going), the envelopes are passed one to the left, so that there are always some people in the group who are not reading. After the fifth round, the feelings and needs are voiced impromptu by the player holding the now empty envelope. And after the tenth round the entire OFNR is impromptu.

VARIATION: Prepare additional Observation cards, so you would start with 20 O's, 5 F