Non-Violent Communication (NVC)

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a process developed by Marshall Rosenberg and others including Carl Rogers the famous American psychologist and pioneer of "client-centered therapy." NVC is a way to communicate with greater compassion and clarity. NVC focuses on two things, honest self-expression which is exposing what matters to oneself in a way that is likely to inspire compassion in others and empathy by hearing what the person is saying, truly listening with deep compassion.

Two of the central tenets of nonviolent communication, also referred to as "compassionate communication," is that everything a human being does whether benign or hurtful is an attempt to meet their basic human needs. NVC postulates that conflict between individuals or groups is a result of miscommunication about these needs, often because of coercive or manipulative language (i.e. inducing fear, guilt, shame, praise, blame, duty, obligation, punishment, or reward).

One aim of NVC is to create a situation in which everyone's needs are met. The reasoning is that from a state of mutual understanding and compassion, new strategies will be generated that meet at least some needs of everyone.

In order to reach mutual understanding, NVC advocates expressing oneself in objective and neutral terms -- talking about your strictly objective observations, feelings and needs -- rather than in judgmental terms of good versus bad, right versus wrong, or fair versus unfair. Formal NVC self-expression follows four steps.

1.   Expressing OBSERVATIONS objectively as distinguished from interpretations or evaluations like, "I see that you are wearing a hat while standing in this building."

2.   Expressing FEELINGS or emotions separate from reasons and interpretation like, "I am feeling puzzled."

3.    Expressing NEEDS or deep motives like, "I have a need to learn about other people's motives for doing what they do."

4.    Expressing REQUESTS (clear, concrete, feasible and without an explicit or implicit demand like, "Would you be willing to share with me your reasons for wearing the hat in this building."

NVC advocates listening very carefully and patiently to the other party in a conflict. NVC advocates echoing that party's statements back to them. If someone said to you, "You were very lucky indeed not to get shot when I saw you climbing over my garden wall last night." This could be paraphrased as, "It sounds like you were nervous because your need for safety wasn't being met."

In NVC, priority is given to creating a high quality of connection to oneself, and between people. It is observed that without connection, effective communication cannot occur.

Maintaining a focus on needs is a central premise. Needs, as the term is used in NVC, are underlying motivations that are universal in that we all experience the same relative needs even if at different times and to different degrees. Thus, needs serve as a basis for understanding each other's motivations at a level at which it is easy to be sympathetic to those motivations.

Needs are distinguished from strategies, which are specific plans to try to meet needs. If people interact only with an awareness of strategies, it is easy for people's strategies to come into conflict. Operating from an awareness of needs increases flexibility, insofar as there are typically many strategies that could lead to a given need being met. NVC practitioners also tend to find that it can be deeply satisfying to be aware of needs.

Ultimately, the various processes and attitudes suggested by NVC are strategies designed to "serve life" -- to increase the joy and well-being of all. Quality connections and a focus on meeting everyone's needs serve these ends.