Walking the Walk: Why Embodying Your Philosophy is Better Than Talking About It

This is likely in the top 10 pieces of advice I give to my students of Nonviolent Communication, and even some of my therapy clients: living your truth and leading by example is much more effective than lecturing others into adopting your philosophies. In other words, walk the walk more than you talk the talk.

Have you ever been so excited about something you’ve learned that you just wanted to tell the whole world about it? Or maybe you believe that everyone around you would benefit from knowing the things that you know, so you put a bunch of energy into trying to get other people to see the world the way you see it – through your philosophical lens?

I would wager that these efforts work sometimes, but the majority of time, people probably listen politely, nod, and then completely forget about what you have so diligently and passionately spelled out for them; or maybe they aren’t as polite about it and they are pretty clearly not present with you as you launch into your lecture on how to figure out life. This can be so disappointing and leave you wanting a sense of being heard and understood, and maybe even leave you with thoughts about the other person’s competence or openness.

The truth is, all people, at any given point in time, have their own set of needs that they are trying to meet. They have their own circumstances and life events, and they are likely much more concerned with their own life than your excitement about some new thing they’ve never heard about. Some people will be open and willing to listen and learn, but catching someone in that state by chance is not incredibly likely, especially if you just launch into your thoughts on why and how they should change their way of thinking/being without checking in with them about it first.

When it comes to NVC, new learners tend to get excited about using this new way of communicating and connecting with others, and then they almost immediately become discouraged when they realize that the rest of the world does not reciprocate in this compassionate style of communicating. This realization can lead to frustration and a desire to teach others and lecture them on why their other conversational responses are not connecting, or maybe share what empathy really is and how to empathize with someone effectively. But, as we know, lecturing and educating are themselves other conversational responses, and unless someone is specifically looking for that and expecting it with consent, lecturing and educating tend to be disconnecting.

So, what do you do when you have people in your life who you believe would benefit greatly from NVC (or literally anything else; I’m just using NVC as an example)? You embody it. Convince others that what you know (that they don’t know) is worthwhile and life-bettering by having a better life! Okay okay, I know “better life” is a judgment, and really doesn’t mean anything concrete. So instead, think about the concrete ways in which NVC benefits you, and show it instead of talking about it.

Maybe, for you, NVC has helped you have greater connection within your relationships. Enjoy that connection! Keep creating new connections and nurturing old ones. Maybe NVC has helped you to take blame and judgment out of your language. Great! Keeping your language judgment free as much as possible is all you need to do, then. Forget about telling people how to take judgment out of their language and thoughts, or why they should have less judgment. Instead, just be in that space of non-judgment and let others notice it. The people who notice and become intrigued by it will likely gravitate to you because they enjoy emotional safety. They may not realize that that is what is happening. They might label you as having “good vibes” or as being “an easy person to exist with”. Eventually, they will get to a place of curiosity around what makes you different from the other people they interact with, and that is when you get to talk about NVC. Wait for them to come to you. Wait for them to get curious and hungry for something deeper, something more connecting. Because when people are open to learning, they are much more likely to actually learn.

Additionally, this takes the pressure off of you. The task of convincing another person of anything at all can be exhausting. If you yourself are convinced that NVC (or whatever other tool, philosophy, etc.) is going to make the world a better place, then do all that you can to be in integrity with NVC. Trust that embodying your truth will indeed create more peace and connection in the world, and inspire others through the positive results within your own life.