Underlying all human actions are needs that people are seeking to meet, and understanding and acknowledging these needs can create a shared basis for connection, cooperation, and more globally peace
Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of Non Violent Communication (NVC) language used to say that quite often we tend to use the language of “jackal”, we judge, lay blame, we demand and eventually disconnect. NVC is another communication process that focuses in understanding each other at the level of our needs and learning to communicate with compassion towards ourselves and others
While studying and trying to practice the NVC language (great trigger a learning lab i attended @ Ericsson’s Learnathon on that subject) i thought that it would be a great experiment to try NVC language in a team retrospective. I was curious to understand, how honestly expressing ourselves and emphatically listening others, could improve or challenge team relationships and trust among team members. It was a completely new way to communicate and express things that didn’t work well, things that worked well and areas that could be improved.
We run the retrospective using, to the extend possible, all four components of NVC process: observations, feelings, needs and requests. Since it was the first time using that language we kept some notes on every component to help us during our discussion using NVC language! Below is a short description of every component with a few examples
- observations: in that phase we reflect on things that we have observed (hear, see, remember) free from our own evaluations or interpretations of what happened. We focused on both positive or negative observations on team or even on personal level.
ex. during our previous sprint i remember that <a team member> had to handle too many tasks
ex. i’ve noticed that we didn’t get from sprint beginning the expected support from system experts and i remember that we finally got the support after raising specific questions and setting up a couple of meetings
- feelings: in relation to what we have observed, in that phase we have expressed our emotions rather than thoughts which were associated with our met or unmet needs (next phase). The observations were just the triggering points
ex. […] and i felt a little bit uncomfortable
ex. […] I felt initially insecure on they way we have approached our solution and i felt more confident when finally we got the required support.
- needs: in that phase we have tried to express our deeper needs that caused our feelings triggered by our observations.
ex. […], because i value fairness and balance on workload distribution among team members
ex. […]. My need for safety, security and support on what we are doing as a team even at later phase was met!
- requests: in the last phase we tried to clear express our requests that will improve our personal and team’s well being. Trigger improvements that are closely connected with our expressed needs.
ex. […] Do you think that we could try in our next sprint planning to split more equally our everyday task and try offload<a team member> from tasks that for the time being his expertise in not needed and let him focus on those tasks that our team needs his expertise so to meet our goal?
ex. [..] Would it be nice whenever we have uncertainties and we need support proactively send our requests, while trying to be as specific as possible, to people that could help us?
It was interesting to observe that we have managed in a very polite & humane way to express what happened in previous sprint and identify behaviors that we would like to keep and try. It was quite impressive the way people expressed their feelings and their met or unmet needs.
We have used the same language to reflect on the hour spent so to get used on that new way of communication and once more the outcome was amazing! People felt proud of their team, observed that they have different needs not expressed so far, felt more confident to share their feelings caused by their needs and helped them alot to see that there are ways to avoid conflicts, blame and disconnection. We will definitely use that language in our retrospectives and as suggested we should even try it in our everyday work as well! I think we had just made another step while trying to grow strong team relationships!