In April I had one of the best birthday parties of my life thanks, in part, to two of my favourite features of Nonviolent Communication (NVC), getting deeply connected to my needs and making specific requests to meet those needs. As my birthday approached, I considered my options. For several years now I’ve had a deep longing to share my music with others, and that longing has led me to put on concerts for some of my past birthdays. As I thought about putting on another concert for this year’s birthday, I felt apprehensive. It’s a vulnerable thing for me to perform my own music, and my concerts have not always gone so well. Juggling my Road to Compassion counseling and workshop business, my Abundance Community Farm community-building and farming life, and my The Golden Repair artist life, makes it difficult for me to create opportunities to perform my original music. Therefore, it’s a big deal for me to put on a concert and a tough loss for me when a concert doesn’t go well.
There are 2 main things for me that make for a successful concert.
1. I’m happy with how the music sounds: I play and sing well; those playing with me play well; and the sound system and acoustics are good.
2. I feel a connection with the audience: Ideally, the audience is so moved by the music that they want to give it their full attention, either by sitting still or by dancing.
There are other important factors, such as the venue, but those 2 pieces above are the most important to me. The experience that those two pieces give me is one in which my whole-hearted, creative, and deeply personal expression contributes to a soulful aliveness and connection for everyone at the concert. In NVC terms, I would say that the needs that I want to meet are shared aliveness – a co-created intimate and passionate aliveness – and meaningful, joyful contribution – my unique, personal, creative expression of art moving, expanding, deepening, and turning on the hearts and souls of the listeners.
As I reflected on these needs and felt into their energy, I considered what to do about the fact that my musicianship is not yet at the level where I can turn on the hearts and souls of listeners to the point where they can’t help but give the music their full attention. That self-assessment doesn’t come from my inner critic; it’s simply an honest appraisal. I adore all of my songs and have a great appreciation for my songwriting efforts and hours of practice, but I need consistent performance with skilled musicians and some more healing for my voice to get to the next level. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to that level, but there is an energy that comes alive when we connect with our needs, and the energy of my needs was hopping. And then, a plan for meeting those needs started coming together.
One of the keys to fulfilling your needs is making specific requests. It also helps to tell those to whom you are making the requests what needs you want to fulfill. When others feel connected to your needs and understand the specific things they can do to help fulfill those needs, magic can happen. And, it is immensely helpful if those receiving your requests feel free to say “no.” However, when it comes to vulnerable territory, such as putting on a birthday concert, it can be scary to put out a request with an assurance that a “no” will be received with understanding and care. Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of NVC, encouraged people to not do anything if they couldn’t do it with the joy of a child feeding a hungry duck. He suggested that, if after connecting to the needs of all parties involved, you couldn’t do what was asked joyfully, you continue dialoguing and searching for other strategies that you could joyfully do. Sometimes, I’m good with a genuine willingness, if joy isn’t there. For my birthday concert, I wanted my friends to feel really good about saying yes. I felt confident that what I probably couldn’t pull off on my own, we could pull off together if their hearts were all in.
The rest of this post is the email I sent to my friends, which outlines the plan for the night and, with my version of naturalized NVC, lays out my needs and requests. To see the result of my process of connecting to my needs and their powerful energy, formulating requests, and sending the email, watch this video from my birthday concert of my song Across Deserts and Plains and this video of my song Closer.