When most people hear of “Violent Communication” they may envision physical aggression. Certainly acts of physical aggression are violent and prevent safe communication. We may also harm others through offensive words, labels, judgments, criticizing others, using political rhetoric, or responding with anger. When these verbal and emotional attacks are involved in dialogue it could also be deemed “Violent Communication.”
What is Non-violent Communication? Non-violent Communication (NVC) is also called compassionate communication, is a method to bring communication back the universal needs we all have and working together to find was to honor one another’s human needs. NVC was developed by Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg, who has introduced it to individuals and organizations worldwide. It has been used between warring tribes and in war-torn countries; in schools, prisons, and corporations; in health care, social change, and government institutions; and in intimate personal relationships. Hundreds of certified trainers and many more non-certified trainers around the world are sharing NVC in their communities.
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) has been described as a language of compassion, as a tool for positive social change. NVC gives us the tools to understand what triggers us, to take responsibility for our reactions, and to deepen our connection with others, and ourselves thereby transforming our habitual responses to life. Ultimately, it involves a radical change in how we think about life and meaning.
Nonviolent Communication is based on a fundamental principle: Underlying all human actions are needs that people are seeking to meet. Understanding and acknowledging these needs can create a shared basis for connection, cooperation, and more harmonious relationships on both a personal and global level. Understanding each other at the level of our needs creates this possibility because, on the deeper levels, the similarities between us outweigh the differences, giving rise to greater compassion. It is this author’s opinion that intense communication. which does not address the needs of all involved, possible resolutions will be incomplete.
When we focus on needs – without interpreting or conveying criticism, blame, or demands – our deeper creativity flourishes, and solutions arise that were previously blocked from our awareness. At this depth, conflicts and misunderstandings can be resolved with greater ease.
The language of Nonviolent Communication includes two parts: honestly expressing ourselves to others, and empathically hearing others. Both are expressed through four components – observations, feelings, needs, and requests – though observations and requests may or may not be articulated.
Practicing NVC involves distinguishing these components from judgments, interpretations, and demands, and learning to embody the consciousness embedded in these components. This compassionate approach allows us to express ourselves and hear others and ourselves in ways more likely to foster understanding and connection. It allows us to support everyone involved in getting his or her needs met, and to nurture in all of us a joy in giving and in receiving.
The practice also includes empathic connection with ourselves – “self-empathy.” The purpose of self-empathy is to support us in maintaining connection with our own needs, thus encouraging us to choose our actions and responses based on self-connection and self-acceptance.
Self-empathy at times like this has the power to transform our disconnected state of being and return us to our compassionate intention and present-oriented attention. With practice, many people find that self-empathy alone sometimes resolves inner conflicts and conflicts with others as it transforms our experience of life.
Summary of Principles of Nonviolent Communication
- State concrete actions you observe in yourself or the other person.
- State the feeling that the observation is triggering in you. Or, guess what the other person is feeling, and ask.
- State the need that is the cause of that feeling. Or, guess the need that caused the feeling in the other person, and ask.
- Make a concrete request for action to meet the need just identified.
Basic Feelings We All Feel
When needs are met, we feel: When needs are not met, we feel:
Basic Human Needs
Modified Cheat Script for NVC
“When ___ (describe action), I feel ___ (share feeling),
because I have a need for ___ (state need).
Would you consider, ___ (make request).
Alicia Kelly is the owner of Kelly Counseling and Associates and Mosaic: A Wellness Place. In addition to working as a counselor and public speaker, she enjoys spending time in nature, laughing with her husband, and spoiling her nieces and nephews. She was lucky enough to find her dream vehicle, a 1987 Jeep Grand Wagoneer (wood grain and all).