Talking about privilege

NVC and Privilege

Four Nonviolent Communication moderated discussions have begun, two are already free to access online and the conversations are sensitive and nuanced yet challenging and fresh. The time to talk about privilege has come.

You can catch recordings from the NVC Academy at here

Privilege is loosely defined here as systemic difference we were born with which gives us power, which is often unseen by the powerful.  So far conversations have been held on the experience of Privilege from the perspective of being white and that of being male, the next two will be from a female perspective and from a person of colour.

Intense blue sky with soft clouds and the moon.
The moon in the day time

On the first call  a white man  introduces himself as, ‘a recovering racist and I will be all of my life’, another white male says his friends report being ‘tired of conversations about white privilege’ when for him the conversation hasn’t even begun. They report that for some people believe that discussing privilege makes it worse,  that if it isn’t spoken about it will goes away and bringing it up further divides us. On these calls it is recognised that people in the position of more privilege have a choice to actively engage with it or not while the people who are unserved by privileged are inescapably effected all the time. And that for those of us who benefit from these systemic differences there is a cost – a stress, a defensiveness, a fear that we must actively avoid seeing power differentials.

NVC makes it seem possible to discuss the unspeakable as all the participants are very clear on the  principle that ‘all needs matter’ so they can discuss the topic of privilege without the narrative that that means someone will loose out. NVC also helps us move beyond shame guilt and powerlessness, which leads to defensiveness and disconnect in those of us who benefitting from our systems of privilege without choosing to. One man on the call about being male notices that he doesn’t want to experience ‘guilt’ and states that he cannot change his position – he is stuck being male, which is often a disconnected experience he suffers equally to women. This powerlessness is particularly challenging to men who have been brought up with the cultural narrative that ‘real men’ are be able to enact changes, yet to give women their full space in the world we need men to lead men and give women the space to reclaim the world for themselves.

NVC allows us to be curious about this topic and to talk about this topic. Alan Said, a moderator on one of the call about male privilege says,

‘thank goodness for NVC we can have our honesty and harmony’.

 Indeed as the calls go on the men are more able to own their experiences of being culturally conditioned to experience their self-worth as ‘power over’ and not being taught the tools to handle rage and frustration in a healthy way.

If privileged people choose to engage with this we can begin an inclusive conversation about

  • whether everyone has the capacity to get their needs met in our current situation.
  • instead of fearing that there isn’t enough so we need to horde the little we have have we can envisage the future when all of our needs matter.
  • we can have conversations which are restorative, in which there is space for people’s anger and rage about privilege to be explored,
  • we can begin to create the spaces to mourn the history of privilege and our current context
  • to take leadership positions where we take risks by making ourselves vulnerable.


NVC allows us to go towards solidarity between us all – to mourn how hard it is to do this work and the celebration of what we are capable of.  Contact me to explore Nonviolent Communication in Hong Kong.


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