This time is a story by connecting2life trainer Oriane Boyer about a dialogue she had with her toddler niece.
Conflict with my 1.5 years old niece, by Oriane Boyer:
I was spending time with my niece Rosa, 1 year and 6 months old. At one point during the afternoon a delicate conflict emerged between us: We were outside, it was winter time, I wanted her to put her hat on and she didn’t want.
I realized that I went directly to the request without sharing first my need, and even more- lets be honest, it was not a request, it was a demand… and clearly it didn’t work! (She’s super skilled at setting up her limits and in expressing NO).
In instant, we became “enemies”: each of us was very attached to her own strategy… in a matter of seconds, a sense of distance was growing between us.
It lasted few minutes, quite painful, her repeated NO was intense to my ears and definitely higher in volume than my ears and heart enjoys…
I was triggered, all of me wanted to respond in a volume as high as her and tell her: “Put the hat on and don’t argue with me, I am not wanting to repeat it- just put ITTTTTTTTTTTTT on!”
I am very grateful to myself and to NVC that I actually did not respond that way and that I paused.
I took a deep breath, I shut my mouth and I started listening to what was going on inside of me…..I kept on breathing, welcoming all the uncomfortable sensations in my body when I was still hearing her “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”.
Then, I asked myself “Why do I want her to put her hat on?”
“Because I feel worried, it’s 1°C outside, I’m afraid she’ll get sick”
I took few more breaths and deeper I realized “If she gets sick, I’m afraid her parents (my brother and sister in law), will trust me less and that they might doubt my capacity to take care of this little being, and me, I love being with her”.
Calmer, with more resources and more clarity about what was going on in me, I decided to put my attention on her, to “empathize” with her as we say in NVC jargon, which means to remember that each action a human being takes (wether I like it or not), is an attempt to meet precious needs/values. I might still not be ok with her action but I wanted to connect myself to the beauty of what she was trying to do behind her action (behind her NOOOOOOO). This could support me to feel compassion and bring a sense of closeness.
So it sounded like: “Rosa, you really don’t want to put your hat on right? You’re fed up that every adult tells you every minute what to do and how to do it without asking if you’e ok with it, right?
You’re fed up, fed up, you want to be free and be at choice!!!!…. Is that it?
While doing that, a voice in me said “Pffff what are you doing Oriane, ridiculous, she’s 1.5 years old, she does not get what you say, she does not even speak yet!”
Then I said to myself “Actually who gives a damn about words, what matters is the intention behind my words, that I am genuinely trying to connect to her, to see her, and I am sure she senses that: that I’m open to what is important to her and that I care for it. That am trying to understand her rather than demand her or boss her around”.
She looked at me with big awake eyes, she did not shout “NOOOOOOOO” anymore. She stayed silent and looked at me. I continued guessing what I sense is going on for her, I tried to put my heart and soul towards her heart and soul, to REALLY see her motivations (needs). And she slowly was nodding “yes” with her little head…
VULNERABLE, AUTHENTIC EXPRESSION:
Then I went into expression, focusing on my feelings and needs (what’s alive in me, what’s really going on in me) instead of telling her that she should or shouldn’t do something-(which might not help in building trust in true mutual cooperation and in our connexion):
“I am worried that you get sick, it’s cold, your hair is thin, i don’t trust it protects your head yet. And I want your parents to trust that I can take care of you so I can keep on spending time with you because I love it!”
She looked at me, didn’t express anything. And then I said: “So I’d like you to put your hat on…”.
I gave it to her, and in return she threw it directly on the ground and kept walking.
CONTINUE SELF CONNECTION: REQUEST ≠ DEMAND
I decided to take the hat and to continue listening to myself (self-connexion): “I feel more relaxed, less in urgency and less in a demand energy that she SHOULD…. After all, I hate it when people force me to do anything…And we’re almost at the cafe I wanted to go to and it’s warm there….”
Then suddenly she took the hat out of my hand, she put it on and looked at me with a smile that I interpret as “Here aunty Oriane, I can do it if it reassures you”.
I am not implying that each situation has a happy ending but what touched me the most and what is my big learning is that from the moment I was able to listen to myself and welcome my own uncomfortable feelings (instead of shouting at her), from that moment I could then express myself vulnerably and listen to her- A space in me got open to try to see her needs. We went from being enemies to a sense of a team working together. And this, in my experience makes the whole difference in the quality of our relationship, a quality based on mutual respect and true consideration rather than me being the boss.