“If you and dad don’t sell the family business, I will move and my son and I will never visit you again!”
How could my daughter say such a hurtful thing! How could she know what we should do with our family business? Why would she threaten to deprive us of seeing our only grandchild when we love her and him so much? I couldn’t stop thinking about it and experiencing the pain of her words.
After three days of the 10-day training in Nonviolent Communication I was beginning to gain some understanding that everything a person does is an attempt to meet positive, universal needs. But I could not discern the needs behind such hurtful words.
That evening I had the opportunity to do a special form of dialogue with a masterful trainer of Nonviolent Communication, named Miki Kashtan. I spoke to Miki as if she were my daughter, saying what was on my mind. Miki responded by answering, not in the words my daughter would use in real life, but speaking from the heart. She expressed what her (my daughter’s) feelings, longings and hurts were underneath the more usual words of anger, frustration or hurt. The essence (condensed from 30 minutes) of the conversation was as follows:
Me: Why do you think you should decide what we should do with our business? How could you threaten to prevent us from seeing our grandson? Why do you hate us so much to threaten such a thing?
My daughter: Mom, when I see you and dad fighting so much about the business, I am really in pain. I love you both and it hurts me a lot to hear the two of arguing as you do. And I don’t want my son to keep hearing this type of fighting. I have some ideas about how you could sell the business and be happier. But you won’t listen to me. So, the only thing I can think to do to protect me and my son from the fighting is to move so that we don’t have to experience it.
At the end of the conversation I was silent – stunned. I needed time to process it and went to bed. I woke up at 3 am and suddenly realized – “ Oh, my goodness, my daughter doesn’t hate me, she loves me! She is trying to protect herself and her son from pain because she loves me and her father! She is thinking she has gifts for us, that she can help us. She has ideas about how we could sell the business and have less stress and conflict. But she doesn’t see us wanting to receive her gifts. Hence moving seems the best option for meeting needs of comfort and peace for her son and herself.”
As soon as I took in this understanding of the wonderful needs (protection from pain, comfort, peace, safety) underneath the words I experienced as hateful, all of my heart-ache vanished. She doesn’t hate me – she loves me!! My heart sang – my pain was gone.
AND it is important to know that while the anguish in my heart about the relationship with my daughter did vanish instantaneously, the relationship itself took a couple of years to improve dramatically. There was work to be done to improve the relationship. But I was now confident that we would get where I wanted us to be. And we have.