4 minutes reading time (775 words)

Nonviolent Communication


Giving from the Heart

NVC helps us connect with each other and ourselves in a way that allows our natural compassion to flourish.

It guides us to reframe the way we express ourselves and listen to others by focusing our consciousness on four areas: what we are observing, feeling, and needing, and what we are requesting to enrich our lives.

NVC fosters deep listening, respect, and empathy and engenders a mutual desire to give from the heart.

Some people use NVC to respond compassionately to themselves some to create greater depth in their personal relationships, and still others to build effective relationships at work or in the political arena.

Worldwide, NVC is used to mediate disputes and conflicts at all levels.

Communication That Blocks Compassion

It is our nature to enjoy giving and receiving compassionately.

We have, however, learned many forms of life-alienating communication that lead us to speak and behave in ways that injure others and ourselves.

One form of life-alienating communication is the use of moralistic judgments that imply wrongness or badness on the part of those who don't act in harmony with our values.

Another is the use of comparisons, which can block compassion both for others and for ourselves.

Life-alienating communication also obscures our awareness that we are each responsible for our own thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Communicating our desires in the form of demands is yet another characteristic of language that blocks compassion.

Observing without Evaluating

The first component of NVC entails the separation of observation from evaluation.

When we combine observation with evaluation, others are apt to hear criticism and resist what we are saying.

NVC is a process language that discourages static generalizations.

Instead, observations are to be made specific to time and context, for example, [Hank Smith has not scored a goal in twenty games], rather than [Hank Smith is a poor soccer player].

Identifying and Expressing Feelings

The second component necessary for expressing ourselves is feelings.

By developing a vocabulary of feelings that allows us to clearly and specifically name or identify our emotions, we can connect more easily with one another.

Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable by expressing our feelings can help resolve conflicts.

NVC distinguishes the expression of actual feelings from words and statements that describe thoughts, assessments and interpretations.

Taking Responsibility for Our Feelings

The third component of NVC is the acknowledgment of the needs behind our feelings. What others say and do may be the stimulus for, but never the cause of, our feelings.

  • blame ourselves
  • blame others
  • sense our own feelings and needs
  • sense the feelings and needs hidden in the other person's negative message.

Requesting That Which Would Enrich Life

We try to avoid vague, abstract, or ambiguous phrasing, and remember to use positive action language by stating what we are requesting rather than what we are not.

The fourth component of NVC addresses the question of what we would like to request of each other to enrich each of our lives.

Each time we speak, the clearer we are about what we want back, the more likely we are to get it.

Since the message we send is not always the message that's received, we need to learn how to find out if our message has been accurately heard.

Especially when we are expressing ourselves in a group, we need to be clear about the nature of the response we are wanting.

Otherwise we may be initiating unproductive conversations that waste considerable group time. Requests are received as demands when listeners believe that they will be blamed or punished if they do not comply.

We can help others trust that we are requesting, not demanding, by indicating our desire for them to comply only if they can do so willingly.

The objective of NVC is not to change people and their behavior in order to get our way; it is to establish relationships based on honesty and empathy that will eventually fulfil everyone's needs.

Empathy is a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing. We often have a strong urge to give advice or reassurance and to explain our own position or feeling. Empathy, however, calls upon us to empty our mind and listen to others with our whole being.

In NVC, no matter what words others may use to express themselves, we simply listen for their observations, feelings, needs, and requests.

Then we may wish to reflect back, paraphrasing what we have understood. We stay with empathy and allow others the opportunity to fully express themselves before we turn our attention to solutions or requests for relief.

  • stop, breathe, give ourselves empathy;
  • scream non-violently; or
  • take time out
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