Matt and Sunaina are on a mission to find joy and connection through mindfulness, compassion, and Nonviolent Communication.

436: Relisten: Non-Violent Communication for Parents

Sunaina and Matt Marquez

Harsh words and raised voices rarely lead to a positive outcome. In this episode, I talk to Matt and Sunaina Marquez, founders of The Happy Wanders Club, about communicating using Nonviolent Communication. With Nonviolent Communication (NVC) we learn to hear our own deeper needs and those of others.

Through its emphasis on deep listening—to ourselves as well as others—NVC helps us to have compassion and speak to one another on a deeper level.

436: Relisten: Non-Violent Communication for Parents

Read the Transcript 🡮

*This is an auto-generated transcript*

[00:00:00] Hunter: Hey there, it's Hunter, and welcome to Throwback Thursday. Most Thursdays, we are going to re release one of my favorite episodes from the archives. So unless you're a longtime listener of the show, there's a good chance you haven't heard this one yet. And even if you had, chances are that you are going to get something new listening to it this time around.

[00:00:18] Sunaina: The limitation of judgment is it's masking what's truly going on at the human level. And if we can speak instead at that human level, we can reach a lot more understanding and

[00:00:33] Hunter: You're listening to the Mindful Mama podcast, episode number 304. And today we're talking about nonviolent communication for parents with Sunaina and Matt Marquez.

Welcome to the Mindful Parenting podcast. Here it's about becoming a less irritable, more joyful parent. At Mindful Parenting, we know that you cannot give what you do not have, and when you have calm and peace within, then you can give it to your children. I'm your host, Hunter Clarkfields. I help smart, thoughtful parents stay calm so they can have strong, connected relationships with their children.

I've been practicing mindfulness for over 25 years, I'm the creator of the Mindful Parenting course, and I'm the author of the international bestseller, Raising Good Humans, and now, Raising Good Humans Every Day, 50 Simple Ways to Rest Pause, Stay Present, and Connect with Your Kids. Welcome back to the Mindful Mama podcast.

Hey! Hey! So great to connect with you again and a special welcome. If you are new, of course, I always want to say hello to the new people, but you know, those people come back again and again, you're, you're my peeps too. You're totally my peeps and I'm so glad to connect with you. For me personally, it feels like it's been a while because I have been away.

My family and I went traveling to visit friends in Greece. in August, and this is the first intro and outro I'm recording since then, but it's so appropriate that we're talking about communication here today because it was such a big highway of the trip was communication, learning some Greek, and all the different nuances of communication, you know.

Communication is really this thing that can be endlessly studied and perfected. I wish we, we taught it more in school, but I know that as You and I learn it more and practice more skillful communication in our families. I know it's going to be better for the next generation. I know that. Maybe they won't learn some Greek, but I can teach you a little Greek if you want.

You could say, Kalimera, to say, hello, good day, Kalimera, or Yasa, anyway, is like, hi. So that's my Greek lesson for today. But it's amazing how your tone of voice and all of those things matter so, so much. But, Greek aside, you You are going to love this episode because I talked to Matt and Sunaina Marquez, they're founders of the Happy Wanderers Club, which is all about communicating using nonviolent communication.

So you may have heard of nonviolent communication. One of the things I studied in creating mindful parenting and writing Raising Good Humans And with Nonviolent Communication or NVC, we're learning to like hear our own deeper needs and those of others. And so it really has a beautiful emphasis on deep listening and it really helps us to have compassion and to create a deeper connection, which is really, really beautiful.

So there's some incredibly important takeaways that I want you to look out for. One is that just taking the first step towards softening. Softening can really positive change and negative interaction. And I know that that involves a lot of other work. It involves us reducing our stress levels overall and all kinds of things.

But it really is the key, right? And then also we can find empowerment and we can find some freedom by actually taking responsibility for our own feelings. So we're going to dive in deeper to that and how empathy and non judgment are key to finding a deeper connection and understanding. So our brains are primed towards judgment.

It's normal. It's the way we are, but we can practice non judgment and starting to practice to be a little more open minded, a little more curious, a little bit more wondering what's going on rather than deciding whether this is right or wrong. Good or bad, immediately. This is going to be a powerful episode, really important one.

I love, love, love talking to Sunaina and Matt. They're totally up that Mindful Mama alley, and I think that you're gonna find a lot that you love about this episode, so I can't wait for you to dive into it. And before we dive in, I just want to let you know that you can see clips of the video from this episode.

As well as a lot of short teaching sessions from me over at the Mindful Mama Mentor YouTube channel. So just go to YouTube, search for Mindful Mama Mentor, like, and subscribe it right so we can grow the channel and get this information out to more parents. If you've found some ahas here, it's a great way for you to share it around on social media Band.

If you are interested in taking the work deeper that we talk about today, you're interested in learning more about the Mindful Parenting membership. Go to mindfulparentingcourse. com. You can get on the wait list. We'll send you some information because all the work we talk about here in this episode is the work that we do in mindful parenting.

So keep that in mind. And if you like what you hear today, Go to mindfulparentingcourse. com and get on the wait list and we'll send you some great free info. So, all right. That's it, my friend. So glad you're here. So glad to connect again. Without further ado, join me at the table as I talk to Sunaina and Matt Marcus.

Sunaina and Matt, welcome to the Mindful Mama podcast. I'm so happy you're here. 

[00:06:06] Sunaina: Thank you for having us. We're thrilled to be here.

[00:06:10] Matt: Yes. Thank you so much. Really excited.

[00:06:13] Hunter: So as we've said, like, I'm so excited to talk to you because when I created Mindful Parenting in 2015 or whatever it was, NVC was one of the big insprations Uh, communication styles I studied, I looked at NVC, um, and, um, I also looked at parent effectiveness training and, and, and got trained in that.

And um, looking at, you know, these communication styles that are so fascinating that have been around for a long time, um, and, And can really transform the way we communicate, the way we think about, the way we think about ourselves, all these different things. And yet, it's. It's like still not, I feel like it's out there.

It's really, really out there, but it's not quite perky. I want it like in the school systems. Anyway, first, maybe you could tell us like, what is, what is NVC and nonviolent communication? We'll probably call it by NVC throughout this podcast. We're talking about non. Violent Communication, created by Marshall Rosenberg.

He and, um, Thomas Gordon, who created Parent Effectiveness Training, were both studying under the same teacher, who I forgot that guy's name, so maybe you can help me with that. But, um, tell us what Nonviolent Communication is, and then I'd love to hear, like, what brought you to it, personally.

[00:07:39] Sunaina: Sure. Um, so I, I think the best way I know how to explain what nonviolent communication is, is to kind of share some of the struggles we have had with our now nine month old daughter, Inara.

Um, and we're first time parents, so this example that I'm going to share is our struggles with nap time. We had no idea nap time would be so difficult. Um, and we noticed that our darling little daughter, even though she was so exhausted, would fight going to sleep. She would wail around. She would, um, cry out and vocalize and we just didn't get it.

She's clearly tired. Why isn't she just sleeping? And it was kind of frustrating, you know, as first time parents were exhausted and we want our, our break time as well. Um, and so we decided to try a little bit of curiosity and we said, we asked ourselves, what is it that Inara is needing that she's just not able to potentially communicate to us?

And through that, we started wondering and we said, you know what, she is probably so excited about this brand new world that she just wants to play, she wants to explore, she wants adventure, and she just doesn't want to sleep. Sleep is something she doesn't want to do. And when we were able to kind of have this curiosity and look for those underlying needs that she might have, we were able to come up with strategies to get both of our needs met.

So now, if she's resisting, We just hand her a toy or like an orange or a piece of fruit and she'll just play with it and fall asleep. Um, oftentimes that's all it takes, um, for her. And so we were able to get her needs met and our needs met through this curiosity. Um, we realized that she was basically asking with her, with her fussiness and her struggles.

She was saying, please, um, I want to play, please. I want exploration. I want adventure. And, um, and yeah, we were able to get in touch with that. And we, these are needs we all have. We all want play and adventure and exploration. And so just as Inara was unable to communicate. her needs because she didn't have the language to do so.

We all are basically grown up babies, right? We're all grown up children and some So true. Yeah, exactly. And, and sometimes we just, we haven't been taught that language or we haven't have learned that awareness to communicate our needs or even be in touch with them. Um, And so NVC is a practice of going that deeper level of going deeper and saying, you know, what am I feeling right now and why, what are those needs that are alive in me?

Um, and other people, if they're engaging in ways that we don't understand, that we're frustrated with, confused about, we can wonder what are the needs that are underlying that behavior and have conversations at that deeper level so that there's clarity in our communication. We're not saying at the surface level of judgments of you're right or wrong, or you're being dumb or being ridiculous or whatever words we use.

We're able to go down at that level of clarity so that people can hear us and we can hear ourselves without defensiveness. And, uh, I, I love to share something that one of my dear friends in the NBC community shared with me. And she said that we don't, we don't naturally, we're not naturally born judging others.

You know, babies don't judge. If it's been too long since they've had milk, they don't say, you're a bad mom. You're a bad dad. You shouldn't do this. You should do that. They just cry and they say, I'm hungry. Please feed me. I'm hungry. I need milk. I need food. It's only as we get older, do we forget how to maybe connect to those very basic human needs that we all have.

And so we say things like, you messed up big time by forgetting our anniversary. How could you do that? You're not a good partner. We say that instead of things like, I'm so sad because I so wanted to celebrate our love together and I wanted to feel special and valued today. That second way of speaking is much more likely to get us to feel closer to our partners, to get us to a place of mutual understanding and partnership.

And that's what NVC teaches us how to do and where, how we can speak from that place.

[00:11:40] Hunter: I mean, I love this all so much because the underlying skill underneath all of NBC that is, you know, not talked about as much is mindfulness. Like mindfulness is awareness in the present moment with an attitude of kindness and curiosity, right?

So you're saying like when you describe. Going to your daughter, you're bringing mindfulness. You're saying, okay, I'm bringing this awareness. What is happening for her? What are her needs? But also what is happening for me? You know, this. This, this kind and curious awareness for, for both of you and, and I, and I love that there's this acknowledgement of, you know, NVC really acknowledges both sides, right?

It's not just like, it's like, well, well, you know, you have needs and I have needs and this is really the heart of every conflict is that we, we may have different needs and how can we, how, how can we communicate them in a way? that doesn't cause so much resistance, right? It's interesting, you know, you, I think you're right, like, that we don't, we aren't born judging people, but sometimes I, I'm, as I've watched, like, my daughters grow, I've wondered, like, Well, you know, like with my first daughter, like, I was not very skillful for the first X number of years and, uh, but, like, sometimes it seems like blaming, it seems like a natural human tendency, like the, as we get a sense of self, that, that small ego, like, we want to protect, that ego wants to protect ourselves, and so to say something is your fault is to protect The ego in some ways too.

So there's some interesting kind of, uh, pieces around there that you're welcome to dive into, but I'd also love to see like, what brought you to this? Like you now have a nine month old or however old she is now, but obviously you were studying this long before then. Stay

tuned for more Mindful Mama podcasts right after this break.

So two questions there. I don't know. 

[00:13:58] Matt: Yeah, I can, I can, I can, I can, I can tackle that, that first one. Um, about. I mean, what you're saying, I think is so true about, you know, wanting to protect ourselves, and it's so easy to blame other people for how we're feeling. And, you know, I actually have a pretty good example of one that happened very recently, because You know, for the last five months, we've actually been living with Sanina's mom and, you know, uh, my mother in law is this incredibly loving, caring, generous person who's opened up her home to us.

And, you know, she cares for our baby, you know, hours every day. But over time, I found myself, you know, feeling really frustrated and, you know, kind of uneasy and maybe even angry at times, uh, when I was around them, uh, because I just found myself kind of wanting to nitpick all the little things she was doing, which maybe I wouldn't have done, but I just wanted to kind of Just get in there and say, no, no, no, you're doing this wrong.

You should be feeding her this way or doing this and this. And it was really starting to build up. I could really, there's a lot more tension in the house. And it was really only after, you know, talking to Sunaina and I think really allowing myself to feel this curiosity and, and, and vulnerability, I think too.

To understand why am I feeling this way? You know, what is causing this? Um, and I realized that, you know, when I was handing, you know, my baby over to my mother in law, she was so excited. It was almost like she was kind of coming alive. And I was, I was feeling so sad because I could see this relationship growing between them and I really wanted that for myself, I didn't feel that connection with my daughter and.

I was realizing that yes, I was feeling this frustration, this unease, this even anger at times with my, with my mother in law, but really the core of this, when I look deeper underneath that is I really want a connection with my daughter and really only after I made that realization, I think that I feel that relief, you know, I, that this was all actually happening, you know, with, within me and, you know, I could do something about that.

And so actually just even last night, actually, we, we kind of sat down and had a conversation where I was able to make Some requests, you know, of my mother in law that I know would not have been possible, you know, without using MVC, without having this awareness and, you know, curiosity and vulnerability.

And, and it's, it has been such a relief to kind of get to that place from, you know, being so easily like, Oh, this is your fault. Why are you doing all this stuff wrong? It's like, no, I want something different. How can I figure out how to achieve that and just be happier?

[00:16:32] Hunter: Yeah, the self awareness that that requires is amazing and it requires like some space, a little less stress.

It requires a bunch of, a bunch of things. So, uh, I, I love all this. How did you, how did you guys discover NBC? Um, I

[00:16:51] Sunaina: I read a book, um, by Marshall Rosenberg, it was just on the bookshelf of one of my friends, um, Speak Peace in a World of Conflict, and I was so moved by it that when I moved to New York, we were in Texas right now, but we used to live in California and New York before that.

When I was in New York, I started taking classes at the New York Center for Nonviolent Communication, and there was just something that just immediately grabbed me about it. I, I think that. Growing up in a maybe traditional, almost religious household, you know, we're learning, we're learning that there's right and wrong, good and bad.

And NVC like kind of blows that all apart and says, no, there's no such thing as evil. There's no such thing as good and bad. It's just people doing the best they know how to get their needs met. And if we can see the world in that way, we can learn how to work together to get everybody's needs met. So instead of saying, um, you're a bad husband, you deserve to be punished.

It's, it's what were the needs that were alive in you when you did X, Y, and Z. And how can we work together so that both of our needs get met and both of us matter. And I just thought it was such a beautiful philosophy, just imbued in compassion and optimism and our humanity. So, um, that's, that's what I loved about it.

And I just pulled Matt into the, into the, uh, into the classes in, in New York. And he, Loved it himself. And I don't know, Matt, if you want to say a little bit more about what appealed to you about it or how you decided to

[00:18:20] Matt: pursue it. Yeah, I, I definitely got into it because of Sunina, uh, and I, I can't say that I would have found it, you know, without her, but, um, you know, it was, it was something that I think took a little bit of more time for me to really understand what it is, um, because it felt like all these big ideas.

And, and, uh, I think, you know, uh, I just had no experience with any of it, but

[00:18:48] Hunter: I kind of Was it really different from the way you were raised, language wise?

[00:18:51] Matt: Yeah, definitely. Um, you know, I, I feel so fortunate, you know, I had this, I have these two amazing parents who, you know, supported me and loved me so much.

And I think they really encouraged, uh, my brother and I, you know, to do whatever we wanted in the world. I know, I, I felt confident in their unconditional love. And so I felt all this intellectual freedom, you know, to kind of pursue, find the life that I wanted to. And I think what I've learned since then is that the journey that I've been on is learning about kind of a more emotional freedom and emotional curiosity because we just didn't really have that language when I was growing up.

We just didn't really talk about our feelings and try and understand not just, okay, well, we, what do we want to do? That is going to be fun and interesting and exciting and enrich our lives. But also like what's, what's making us happy, you know, what, what is fulfilling to us, excuse me. And I think as I got deeper in NVC, I realized this is actually a framework of understanding what is going to fulfill me, what is going to make my life feel complete.

And, you know, so like the, the deeper I get into it, the more, the bigger part of my life, it becomes definitely.

[00:20:05] Hunter: There's so much that you mentioned there. Like, um, You know, you talked, uh, alluded a little bit to like how our culture and for a lot of us, our upbringing is kind of inherently kind of judgmental.

I mean, I kind of, I see our culture as being very judgmental, you know, um, and you said that in nonviolent communication, there's no right and there's no wrong. There's no good and there's no evil. There's just. Human beings are doing the best they can and trying to get their needs met. And this is so wonderful, which is, this is like, it coincides so beautifully with, um, Mindful Parenting, which is why I love it.

The, we, Nonviolent Communication talks about It kind of describes this, like, as, like, this is like a language of disconnection, so I'm just wondering if maybe you could first help us kind of understand the way our, the more, you know, more mainstream habitual language is, like, disconnecting, um, you know, Talking about, NBC talks about like, diagnosis and denial of responsibility, maybe you can talk about those things a little bit.

[00:21:19] Sunaina: I think that we are conditioned to judge, um, I think it's a very, it's a very human thing to judge. I'm not here to say whether it's learned from our culture or whether it's kind of a survival mechanism, you know, like we have to judge what's safe and what's not safe when we're You know, like the snake is bad and the apple is good, right?

Like, I'm not sure if it's inbuilt in us biologically or if we've learned it in our culture, but we definitely at least have this easy tendency to say that was wrong. What you did was wrong. In a relationship, you should be this way, or as a student or as a daughter, you should be this way. And I definitely got those messages growing up as an Indian, a young Indian woman, um, raised by kind of an Indian society.

And so it's very easy. Our religion tells us that as well, right? This is right. This is wrong. This is good and bad. If you do something bad, you deserve punishment. Um, if you do something good, you deserve reward. Very much inbuilt in the way that we see the world. The, for me, the, the reason why judgments.

aren't as, um, helpful for me is because in my mind, they are hiding what is truly going on beneath ourselves. So the example with Matt, when he wanted to blame my mom, you're doing this wrong, you're doing that wrong. He could have said, you know, my mom's name is Seju. Seju, you shouldn't do X, Y, and Z because I want to be close to my daughter or whatever.

He could go off into blaming her and judging her. And that masks the fact that all of his struggles was coming from his pain at wanting a deeper connection with his daughter. That was the core of what was going on. That was the human part of him that was alive. And he was projecting that by blaming things on her and, and judging her actions and her behaviors.

And so we, we like to say this, you know, in our podcast, we're talking to each other that all of our judgments are masking our underlying pain, there is pain underneath it. Something as simple as, you know, we used to teach NVC, um, at Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego. We taught 25 inmates. Um, we did it three times at Donovan Correctional Facility and something as simple as.

One of the inmates, inmates saying, you know, this other guy laughed at me for, um, wearing this shirt that I like. He pointed and he laughed and he said that I looked stupid. Um, that simple judgment of you look stupid in that shirt could be coming from this source of pain of like, I know that I'm judged by what I wear.

And, and so now I'm going to be judging others. So for me, the, the limitation of judgment is it's masking what's truly going on at the human level. And if we can speak instead at that human level, we can reach a lot more understanding and, and move together as a society to make things better. Um, I don't know if that,

[00:24:11] Hunter: Yeah, no, I mean, I think like what you're describing.

You're right, and what you're describing requires a lot of vulnerability, and I think that we're often, I mean, so We're often, especially in parenting, we're, conventionally, we're often in a, uh, kind of, uh, like a, a me versus you dynamic, right? Like, there's, there's all this language about, like, pick your battles, like, there's all this, like, war language in parenting, right?

Um, yeah, we're defensive, uh, and what you're, Describing requires a lot of self awareness and vulnerability, um, and I guess in, yeah, I mean, I guess that it's that vulnerability and that can be, and also disconnection from ourselves, this, this reticence to be vulnerable, right, to take down those defenses and this, um, um, Just like a lack of awareness of what are actually our feelings and sensations and all of those things are, those two things can be real barriers to, to starting to even like kind of understand or open or embrace this sort of new, this, this different way of communicating and, and being in the world.

[00:25:42] Matt: Yeah, absolutely. And, and I, I think. You really hit it on, on the head when you said that, you know, we just grew up not knowing this. We don't realize that being curious, being vulnerable is an option, uh, you know, because it's so easy to grow up. And I, I think I grew up this way too, thinking that, you know, being in a relationship, somebody is winning, you know, somebody has to win.

Uh, you have, you win the argument, you win over, even if it's like, okay, well, I get to choose, you know, where are we eating and, you know, and are. Just any kind of decision has a winner and a loser. And I think the powerful thing with NVC is it reframes what winning is to how can I find partnership?

Somebody, how can we work together to meet both of our needs? And it's only something I think that is possible when you start learning what is curiosity, you know, what does it mean to be vulnerable? Does that become possible? But yeah, for, I, I didn't know what that meant, , you know, and, and suddenly, once you realize.

That is possible. You can see that it, you can add it in any relationship in your life, whether it's your, your child, um, you know, your romantic partner, your parents, your family, your friends, um, suddenly every relationship then. Can be reframed in this way that you're not necessarily winning or losing.

You're just, you know, trying to create the relationship that you want with that person.

[00:27:09] Sunaina: And I think that, and I think that this vulnerability, I mean, we've got, we've got thought leaders now talking about vulnerability and how powerful it is. I think that oftentimes we don't realize that. By being vulnerable, we are opening the potential for deeper relationship.

We are, there's this trust that I've developed that when I can be truly honest about what's going on inside of me, the whole conversation shifts. The other person sees that vulnerability, they soften, and they're willing to say, okay, how do we get both of our needs met? It, it really, that vulnerability can, can instantly transform this adversarial who's winning the argument to, Oh, wow.

Um, let me share what's coming up for me as well when I'm listening to you. It just transforms the dynamic. And I think one thing we like to share. is that it doesn't require both sides to be versed in these practices. It doesn't mean both of us have to know about these underlying needs and vulnerability and trust and all that.

It can start with just one side, you know, of being able to express clearly from that deeper space and also being able to reflect when the other person is saying things that might be hurtful, that's not using the vulnerable language, the language of needs. You can translate and say, Oh, is what you're saying X, Y, and Z.

So it just takes one person to learn these skills, I think, to transform relationships. And that's what I've found in my own life.

[00:28:31] Hunter: I can attest to that too. I mean, so in the Mindful Parenting membership, we recently had a, we were talking about iMessages and we, so it was like slightly different format than, than NVC, but talking about the idea of what do we do with an adolescent, uh, who comes at you with like an attitude and they're talking it.

And I've got an adolescent, so this is very close to home. And so what I found that when my teenage daughter just has an attitude for some reason, and I, and I explain to her, I say, and I, what I do is, you know, she's defensive and I can feel that, right? Like, and so I open up. I open up, I, I get into that open, vulnerable place and, and, and it does disarm the situation.

So, honey, when you talk to me like that, I feel sad, you know, it's hard to, hard to be around you. I feel sad. It really kind of breaks my heart. And, you know, she did, A lot of times she's just like, she just walks away, doesn't say anything, but the next time then we have an interaction, it's less combative.

You know, it's her, she's, it's disarmed that, it's, it's disarmed her to use that sort of language again, and so, uh, there's, I just want to share that example of that vulnerability being a, uh, being a strength. Yeah, absolutely.

[00:30:02] Sunaina: Go ahead, Matt. What are you going to say?

[00:30:03] Hunter: You'll get there, you guys, you'll get there.

You got a few years, but

[00:30:07] Matt: yeah. Yeah, gosh, we have that to look forward to. Um, um, but I mean, what you're describing is something that I know we experienced in our relationships, definitely even with each other. Um, you know, there's always this moment. It feels like where you recognize, okay, we are, there's a conflict.

There's a, there's a difference in, you know, our goals maybe in this moment. And it's like, we can either turn it into a fight. Or we can maybe turn it in the other direction. And I think one thing that we've been learning to do with each other in particular is to try and make that first step and it can be like the smallest little step and what we found is that it leads to like, what we call like a softening, you know, instead of this like hard, you know, conflict coming up, it's like, this is that it, it paves the way for that curiosity, for that vulnerability.

And, and so we like to practice is just a little, like little empathy exercise, which is. You know, just guessing like, Hey, you know, it sounds like you're feeling really mad, you know, because I did this one thing or because this one thing happened, you know, is that true? And just that, just that little question, you could be wrong.

We completely wrong. But then the other person might say, you know what? Yeah, you're not right there, but like, it's actually like this. And then they want to share more. They want to explain instead of trying to. Fight and win that argument are actually trying to reach mutual understanding. And so you're coming together and you're actually paving the way to kind of, you know, come back together and, and just completely sidestep that argument that you're headed

[00:31:41] Sunaina: toward.

And I'd love to just build on that a little bit, because you're talking about giving empathy and with NBC, empathy means the feelings and needs, guessing feelings and needs. Um, are you feeling angry because you're just wanted more respect in that moment or you wanted more understanding or whatever, and, um, sometimes.

We do it with gritted teeth. Like people, you know, we're angry and it just takes one of us to like start that process, even if it's through gritted teeth and it just takes the conversation a different direction and it allows more connection and understanding and peace. And I can say that in the beginning of a relationship when I was learning these skills, I would always offer that to Matt.

And he would kind of, like, after a while say, like, I feel guilty, like, you know, I'm saying all this harsh stuff, and you're just giving me empathy in return, and, um, I'm so sorry that I, I don't have those skills myself, but thank you, like, it helps resolve, it helps us understand each other. Now, he's totally leapfrogged me, where he's the one in our arguments who starts off that, that process, um, as hard as it may be for him, and I'm just so grateful that, um, That we have that tool to rely on so that we can use our conflicts for understanding.


[00:32:44] Matt: It is really, really hard to stay mad at somebody who's giving you empathy. 

[00:32:48] Sunaina: Or is trying to understand what's happening in your heart.

[00:32:52] Hunter: It must be frustrating if you really, like, you're on, like, a little rampage, and you want to be mad at anybody, right? Like, darn, I can't.

[00:33:01] Sunaina: I've dealt with that before.

And sometimes, I mean, like, I don't want empathy right now, okay? Leave me alone. I want to be mad. And, and that's part of it, too. And, and then you take a break, and then you come back. And so, um,

[00:33:12] Matt: yeah. And actually, that's, that's even something that we ask each other sometimes. And because sometimes, you know, you just want to vent.

You just want to, like, complain. You want to yell. You want to do something. Um, And sometimes we'll ask each other, like, well, hey, do you want empathy? Like, no, I just, I just want to yell right now. I Nar. Yeah,

[00:33:27] Hunter: I just want you to listen. Uh, now, so I want to just kind of, I, we definitely touched on a bunch of the benefits here, but could, if you could give us kind of a quick snapshot of kind of the before and after, like, what are, what are the benefits that you see of starting to practice this?

[00:33:46] Sunaina: The number one thing is just closer relationships. I said. Across the board, all my relationships have improved. Even if I don't give empathy, I can guess in my head what might be going on with that other person, take things less personally, less conflict. So absolutely in all of my relationships. Um, and one of the major things I've found is just understanding myself better when I'm having really difficult emotions.

Um, I can take that moment and I can ask Matt, can you help me talk through this? Or I can talk through it myself and just get to the core of what's going on. And, and I really, I've seen it over and over again. When I can dive down to that need and that feeling, there's relief of understanding. And then I can come up with strategies of, well, if I, if I want more connection, what do I need to do to get that met?

I can give you a quick example of my relationship with Matt when we were first dating. I had this dream growing up that I was going to find my purpose in my relationship. I was going to marry somebody who was going to show me what my life purpose is. I wanted to save the world, help the kids in orphanages or whatever it is.

And I was going to find someone who was going to show me the way and we could work together on that. And I met Matt, this lovely man who just, who wanted to love and be loved and have a family and, and build a life with someone. And, and it was in the back of my mind, but what about. What about my purpose?

And then I took an NVC class and we learned about how you can have different strategies to meet your different needs. And it just clicked. My relationship doesn't have to meet every single one of my needs. I can figure out how to get my need for purpose met in other ways. And so this emotional slavery, I don't know if that's what you meant, Hunter, when you said those words.

This idea that my partner has to meet all of my needs is, it's not healthy. And I was able with NVC to understand, I can know what my needs are and figure out strategies to get them met, um, in different ways. And it just so happened that Matt and I ended up doing this work together. So I do find my purpose through him.

Um, in some ways we're doing it together. But, um, but yeah, it helped me make those types of decisions about my well being. 

[00:35:53] Hunter: Stay tuned for more Mindful Mama podcasts right after this break.

It's like a radical responsibility. There's a big component of responsibility that's really woven all throughout NVC. And it talks about taking care, you know, taking responsibility for your own feelings in a major way too, right? Absolutely.

[00:36:19] Sunaina: Just as Matt's example, it's not my mom's fault. He had pain inside of him.

So taking, taking responsibility, I want more connection with my daughter. What do I need to do to get that connection and not think that it's my, my mom, my mother in law's job to do it. Right, Matt, is that how you would? 

[00:36:36] Matt: Yeah, no, absolutely. Um, yeah, go on.

[00:36:40] Hunter: No, I was gonna say, and I would translate that a lot, like for parents, we can translate all that a lot into, it's not my child's job to make me happy.

It's not my child's job to make me fulfilled. It's not my child's job to make me feel at ease and at peace and grounded. Those are all the things I am responsible for. So that, and then I, then I can show up fully. Like we come into parenting. We want that feel good feeling of that love and that loving, but sometimes we, and end up inadvertently projecting this onto our child, your own needs for feeling happy, feeling relaxed, feeling fulfilled, all of those things.

[00:37:25] Matt: Yeah, and it's empowering when you have that realization, I think, um, you know, when you can see all the choices, all the strategies that are available to you, it's, it's kind of, uh, liberating, I think, yeah, when you finally reach that point.

[00:37:40] Hunter: Yeah, yeah. There's like a freedom there and, and a power, which is really cool.

You're kind of like, you step into your own power. So I would love for you to like, kind of just describe what the NVC process is, you know, the observe, the feeling, identifying needs. Can you kind of walk us through that? You want me to take that,

[00:37:59] Sunaina: Matt? Absolutely. We actually kind of caution ourselves in explaining this process because there's so much to the practice of it.

Like, it has to be practiced. That, that OFNR process, Observations, Feeling, Needs, Request, um, it's like when you're learning a new language, you kind of learn textbook things, right? And you don't necessarily use those phrases in real life. You're, you're learning them to practice. Um, so that you can understand the process and then you can kind of translate that into normal, natural, but if we are going to that kind of nuts and bolts of NVC, um, it is a four stage process.

Observations, Feeling, Needs, and Requests. The first one is observation. So, if there's something that is, is troubling you about what somebody is doing, um, you can observe it without judgment. So, if I come home and Matt's clothes are all over the floor or something, instead of saying, Matt, when you're, you're being such a, a slob, right?

There's a judgment there. It's hard for you to say that, I can tell.

[00:39:04] Sunaina: Well, yeah, so that's like a harsh judgment and, and it's just saying that it's like, you know, Matt, when I came home and I saw your clothes on the floor, there's, so whatever can be, um, videotaped, you can see in a video camera, for instance, it's a judgment free and that takes practice by the way, because a lot of the times the things we say, we think they're judgment free and they're not.

So that takes practice. And then, so when I see, I saw your clothes on the floor, I felt, and then you use a feeling word and back to what you were saying earlier, Hunter, we often confuse emotions with things that come after the words I feel. So sometimes we say, I feel, um, disrespected, or I feel, Um, Take an Advantage of, or I Feel Abandoned.

There are all of these words, um, that imply judgment that you've abandoned me. You're taking advantage of me. You're not respecting me. A feeling is an emotion that arises and we actually have a list of these feelings. on our website if you want to check it out, thehappywanderersclub. com. And it's emotions.

So for instance, when I see, I came home and I saw your clothes on the floor, I felt really tired and frustrated. Um, and then the next step is need. What need of yours wasn't met? So we also have a list of needs, um, on our website, which really helps get down to these universal needs that every human being has.

So you won't see things like money or fame or, or things like that on the needs list because those are not universal needs. Those are, um, money is a strategy to get our needs met for maybe comfort or safety or whatever. So that list has the list of the universal human needs. So I may say. When I come home and I saw your clothes on the floor and I felt really tired and, and sad and frustrated because I really need order and ease when I come home from a long day at work.

So order and ease are needs on that list. Um, so that's observation, feeling, needs. And then, and then you can hear, you know, what comes up for you Matt when you hear that. And then he can use NVC language to, to share with me what he's feeling. And then at the end is the request. And the request is, would you be willing, you know, uh, when you know that I'm coming home, would you be willing to just take a quick look around the house and see if you can pick up anything before I come home?

Because that really would help me feel that ease and, and order when I come home from work. And then The, the characteristic of a request is it's not a demand. You're not saying do it or else you're saying, how does that sound to you? And so Matt can respond and say, you know, that's really hard for me because when you come home from work, I'm really busy.

And then you can have a dialogue of, of strategies that you can both agree on. So that my need for order and ease are met, and his need for order and ease are met, or whatever other needs he has. So, those are the four steps. Observation, Feeling, Needs, Request. Um, and they take a lot of practice, but, but when you're able to do it, Hunter, I, I really think NVC is like a superpower.

Um, because you can speak and communicate in a way that is so much easier for the other person to hear and want to cooperate with you. Um, and, and yeah, with enough practice, it becomes like this. easy way of responding to people and, and, um, and yeah, it becomes like a superpower in my mind. And, and we would, we are, we created the Happy Wanderers Club to talk about it, um, about how we're exploring this in our lives, but we're also going to be launching a course to help teach people these skills.

Um, and so we, you know, invite anybody who would, who wants to learn more to come to our website sign up for our mailing list. 

[00:42:34] Hunter: And so when you say, like, your clothes are all over the floor, you know, I see all these clothes all over the floor, I'm feeling, you know, I'm feeling tired and frustrated with the beauty of that is that there's not a lot to argue with.

Because kind of what's the opposite of what we would say normally, we would say, uh, I mean, actually, I mean, It's actually kind of hard sometimes for now to kind of think about, like, what is the opposite way, you know, you're such a slob, or this is, you know, or, I mean, I don't know, I walk around and I covetched myself a little bit, I'm sure, a little complaining to myself, it's such a mess in here, all that stuff.

Um, now, one of the things that, um, you know, can you, you, can you give us, like, um, kind of an example of this, like, um. Uh, uh, another example, like, for instance, like, you know, what if you, you know, you were, uh, you were with, uh, you were with, uh, a two year old who was, like, whacking you in the shin repeatedly?

Let's just go there. How might you translate this, your, the NBC steps into that? Sure.

[00:43:56] Sunaina: Um, so I don't have a two year old, so I'm gonna cry here. And, and all of this, we're actually really excited to bring this into our parenting as Inara grows up. Um, but I would say what I would, um, try first is, Ouch, Inara, that hurts.

You know, we don't even have to go through all the O F N R, right? And that's just the thing we learn when we're trying to understand NVC, but, Ouch, Inara, that hurts. Um, are you wanting to play? Can we find a way to play that doesn't hurt mommy? Something like that.

[00:44:31] Hunter: That's beautiful because you're saying, you're expressing how her actions are affecting you, your, your needs and your feelings.

And you're looking at her needs too. So in that situation, it's like, what are your needs? What are my needs? But kind of in, in a nutshell, rather than, and the request, uh, is often in this positive language. So like, rather than stop hitting, you might say something in a positive way.

[00:44:58] Sunaina: Like, well, um, is, is there something else we can do to play that doesn't hurt mommy, right?

So. You're, you're asking, tell me, I, and here's the beautiful thing that I'm excited to practice with Inara is I just, I hear so many times, We just tell our kids, no, stop it. Don't do that. Stop it. Without wondering, why are they doing that? What need are they trying to meet? And can we offer an alternative that gets all of our needs met?

Um, and, and acknowledging that your children have needs too, and their needs matter as much as ours do. So, yeah, so you're offering your, your work, you're having a partnership to figure out what can we do so that we get your need for curiosity and play met that also gets my need for comfort and ease met.

[00:45:43] Hunter: Yeah, and has paying attention to the language of needs and has it helped you kind of discover needs? You know, for instance, like, has, have you been in situations where you're like feeling a discomfort? Whatever you're feeling, a disconnect, a discomfort, et cetera, and has it helped you to, to kind of say, Oh, I didn't even realize I had this need before I started to kind of bring this process of self awareness and self exploration into it?

Has that happened for either of you? Matt, do you want to answer that?

[00:46:21] Sunaina:  Anything coming to mind? 

[00:46:22] Matt: I'm trying to think of a good example. Yeah. Um, I mean, I, I know the answer is yes. Absolutely. I'm trying to think of a good example. Do you have one on, on top of your head?

[00:46:34] Sunaina: I, I think that because I was raised to just, you know, be strong and not need anybody.

There were a lot of needs in the connection bucket. Things like acceptance. Um, that I just, I'd never, so it's not that I discovered new needs. It's that I appreciated how important those needs were to me. Like the need for acceptance. Like we hear, we hear so many messages about how we shouldn't care what other people think.

We should live our own lives. And yet as human beings, we do want to be accepted. So whether it's just self acceptance, like I in the mirror every day, say I accept you, I approve you, I love you. And it comes from yourself. Or you find it in a partnership with your romantic partner or your mom or whatever.

Um, it's helped me give and give value to those needs where in the past, maybe I dismissed them and said, no, that's not important. I shouldn't care about that. Were you

[00:47:26] Hunter: raised in kind of a, um, like kind of a culture where women are expected to kind of martyr ourselves for our kids and our family and everybody else?


[00:47:41] Sunaina: Yeah. So yeah, it's how we serve. It's all about how do you serve, um, others.

[00:47:46] Hunter: Yeah. So it can be hard to, in the, I mean, I'll know a lot of the listeners. Uh, it will relate to that regardless, you know, regardless of what culture they're coming from. It's, it's in so many cultures this, you know, I, I really think it comes from the time when women were considered property and, and their, their only value was in how they raised children and served the men in the family.

And so I think it's a leftover of that. Um, but it can be really hard to claim our own needs, uh, when we, when we come from that and to, and to say, I have needs too and my needs matter, especially when you have a young child, you know, like we have a need for sleep, we have a need, you may be, you know, we may be nursing a child or, or not or whatever, but you may have need for time to yourself.

Are you struggling with any of those? 

[00:48:47] Sunaina: Specifically, I still struggle to this day, even without, you know, having a child because it's so inbuilt in me to just be strong and serve others. It's, it's an ongoing struggle for me till today to really embrace my needs. And NBC has helped me become better about that, but it's still a work in progress.

And the reason I know Matt wanted to share this example, um, of the reason we decided to come to Texas and and Live With My Mom was because we realized we had these needs and it was really hard, especially in the pandemic, to, to take care of ourselves as well as a young child. Um, so we had conversations of, look, we, we have these needs.

What are, what can we do to make things easier on ourselves to get our needs met? And that's why we decided to come, come with my mom. And it has, um, helped us a lot in many ways, being honest about, about what it is that we need. Is there anything you wanted to add, Matt?

[00:49:42] Matt: Yeah. I mean, just going back to what you're saying about coming here.

I mean, we were doing everything we could, I think, to, to meet as many of our needs as possible, to support ourselves as. As parents, as people, you know, and it was incredibly, incredibly hard because, you know, we were having work done on our house where our house wasn't even fully available to us. Um, you know, all of our, our friends and community just didn't feel accessible because of the pandemic.

And, you know, we had a newborn baby and We were really struggling to just support each other and our, and ourselves, you know, we're not, you're not sleeping and um, you know, everything was scary. I mean, I, you know, it's first time parenting, you know, just being parenting, uh, it's, it's, it's hard, you know, you don't necessarily know exactly what to do.

And then on top of that, I mean, I used to get angry, you know, at my, at my parents and so many people, because they would say, well, you know, being a parent is hard. I'm like, well, were you a parent in a pandemic and, you know, a recession and, you know, and I'll see your house is like falling apart, you know?

And, and, and so all that stuff was happening and it was like, well, what can we do, you know, after we were finally. Acknowledging, okay, this is, this is a situation. This is all the feelings. This is what we need. We need that support. We need space. We need all these things we're not getting here. What can we do?

And initially the idea of driving 1500 miles in a Texas with a three, four months, zero, four months old, it seemed crazy to me, but the more we realized and talked about what we needed, it felt like that was the solution. That was a strategy that we could actually take. So that's why we did it.

[00:51:22] Hunter: Yeah.

Greater needs require greater resources. You know, and, and you were able to identify that you have some big needs, you know, like there was a lot, there's a lot of needs there. And I, and I, what I want to kind of highlight from what Matt and Sunaina said there is that is the awareness of what their needs were and not, and an attitude of we can figure this out.

We can get our needs met rather than I just have to suffer through this. I, I, we just have to push on through. And what you brought to that was, uh, uh, curiosity, right? Which is, uh, a mindfulness curiosity and awareness, which is all about mindfulness and, and, and some creativity, which I think is really beautiful.

And, and, you know, I don't know how many solutions you like or conversations you went through to get to this, like one solution that you're, you're testing out and going with right now. But like, we often think like. Um, you know, we don't, we don't push ourselves through to like go through like, can I, can I come up with like five more solutions?

Can I, you know, that, that creativity, that curiosity and, and, and I appreciate that you, the way you brought that to the forefront. Um, well, this is so cool. Um, you, to your listener, you should check out Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. Old, classic, wonderful. Book. And as Sunaina and Matt said, they have a podcast, The Happy Wanderers.

Um, do you have any final words that you want the listener to leave with? Maybe if somebody's discovering this, discovering NBC for the first time and this has sparked their curiosity. 

[00:53:11] Sunaina: I would say join us for the ride because we're learning how to apply this stuff to our lives. It has changed my life. Um, absolutely clearly changed my life.

And I, I think you were, you were hinting at this earlier, Hunter, about how we want this to be taught in schools. It's, it's such a powerful tool and it hasn't gone mainstream yet. Um, and that's one of the reasons we're doing this work. We're going to be launching the course. We're doing the podcast. It's because we want this to go mainstream and, um, because it has a potential to transform relationships all over the world, I think.

That's my message is join us. We would love to, um, to learn along with you.

[00:53:53] Matt: Yeah. And just to add on onto that, I think. Even if you have great relationships with your kids, with your parents, or, um, like, you know, I, I feel like I have a great relationship with my parents, but learning NBC, I was able to understand even more and express more of my gratitude for how they've raised me.

And, and, um, and so it strengthened my relationship with my parents. And, and, uh, I believe as, as our baby grows up, you know, I'll be able to express to her, you know, all of my feelings and, and, uh, and just. I think it'll, it'll strengthen our relationship even more than it would have been possible without knowing it.

So, so it's almost doesn't matter at what stage, what kind of relationship you have with people. It will always, it's always possible to get, make them stronger, uh, through NBC, I believe.

[00:54:44] Hunter: Thank you guys so much for coming on the Mindful Mama podcast. Thank you for doing the work that you're doing and sharing it with everybody.

I really appreciate that, you know, the, the bringing it to the forefront and making it accessible in your, your own particular voice, it really matters. And so I appreciate that. Thank you.

[00:55:05] Matt: Thank you so much for having us. Yeah.

[00:55:15] Hunter: I love what Sunaina and Matt had to say about softening. Ah, you know, like the pace of our life and all these different things that can lead us to be, you know, and then the like achievement orientation of our society can lead us to be so like hard and rigid and fixed. And that softening really, really is the key.

And all the things we talked about here in this episode is the work that we do in the Mindful Parenting membership. So if you liked what you heard today, It's about improving your communication, about softening, about being more mindful, you know, and if you're ready to take it deeper, you know, you're ready to turn things around and transform your family life, check out the Mindful Parenting Membership, get on the waitlist, it's at mindfulparentingcourse.

com, and I'll send you some great free stuff when you get on the waitlist, and when the time is right, we'll open the doors and maybe you can join the hundreds of families around the world who are part of this revolution. We'd love to have you too. So I love doing the podcast. I love offering this, but the people I help most are those that join Mindful Parenting.

So it's awesome. MindfulParentingCourse. com and join the wait list and That's it, I think. I am going to have another short solo episode coming out Friday, so make sure you're subscribed. And if you like it, leave ratings and stuff like that. Share it with friends. Tag me. It's so great when you do that. I love it, love it, love it.

And get your copy of Raising Good Humans. If you want to take it deeper, you want to take the next step. Raising Good Humans on audiobook. If someone else is narrating it, Have you listened? I think you can, like, get it on Audible or something like that and listen to the first couple bits of it. And it's this other voice.

I asked them if I could narrate the audiobook, but they said no. So there's some other person narrating it. It sounds so weird to me. I don't know. I'm sure it'll sound normal if you un listen to it and get the audiobook. It'll sound normal pretty soon. And that's it, my friend. I'm so glad to connect with you.

I'm really glad to be back from my travels. You know, going away gives you this perspective on what you have right here. It was so nice to step away from everything for a while, but now I'm so glad to be back. I'm glad to be connecting, and I can't wait to talk to you again soon on the podcast. And I'm wishing you a beautiful week, my friend.

Thank you. Thank you so much for sharing your time with me, for listening. So grateful for you. Have a beautiful week. Namaste.

[00:57:52] Sunaina: I'd say definitely do it. It's really

[00:57:54] Hunter: helpful. It will change your relationship with your kids for the better. It will help you communicate better.

[00:57:59] Sunaina: And just, I'd say communicate better as a person, as a wife, as a spouse. It's been really a positive influence in our lives. So definitely do it. I'd say

[00:58:08] Hunter: definitely do it.

It's so worth it. The money really is inconsequential when you get so much benefit from being a better parent to your children I'm feeling lucky. If you're connecting more with them and not feeling like you're yelling all the time or you're like why isn't things working, I would say definitely do it.

It's so, so worth it. It'll change

[00:58:30] Sunaina: you. No matter what age someone's child is it's a great opportunity for personal growth and it's a great investment in someone's family. I'm very thankful I have this.

[00:58:40] Hunter: You can continue in your old habits that aren't working or you can learn some new tools and gain some perspective.


you frustrated by parenting? Do you listen to the experts and try all the tips and strategies, but you're just not seeing the results that you want? Or are you lost as to where to start? Does it all seem so overwhelming with too much to learn? Are you yearning for community people who get it, who also don't want to threaten and punish to create cooperation?

Hi, I'm Hunter Clark Fields, and if you answered yes to any of these questions, I want you to seriously consider the Mindful Parenting Membership. You will be joining hundreds of Members who have discovered the path of mindful parenting and now have confidence and clarity in their parenting. This isn't just another parenting class.

This is an opportunity to really discover your unique lasting relationship, not only with your children, but with yourself. It will translate into lasting connected relationships, not only with your children, but your partner too. Let me change your life. Go to mindful parenting Add your name to the wait list so you will be the first to be notified when I open the membership for enrollment.

I look forward to seeing you on the inside. MindfulParentingCourse. com

Support the Podcast

  • Leave a review on Apple Podcasts: your kind feedback tells Apple Podcasts that this is a show worth sharing.
  • Share an episode on social media: be sure to tag me so I can share it (@mindfulmamamentor).
  • Join the Membership: Support the show while learning mindful parenting and enjoying live monthly group coaching and ongoing community discussion and support.